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Green Ribbon Reports

Winter 2013

Largest Water Desalination Project Set for Construction

Desalinization is a process that Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have used to create a reliable water supply during times of drought.  With only 2.5 percent of the world water supply being freshwater, it is logical for us to look to California’s largest reservoir, the Pacific Ocean, to help address our water crisis.

Many argue that desalination is too expensive based on the amount of energy necessary to remove the salt and other minerals from the water. Recent advances in technology have made it feasible not only in other counties, but now in San Diego County.  Just last month, the San Diego Water Authority (SDWA) approved a deal to buy 56,000 acre feet a year of desalinated water from the new Carlsbad Desalination Plant, a privately owned facility, starting in 2016.  That amount of water will meet about 8 percent of the supply needed for the region. 

This news from SDWA allowed for the financing to build the new facility to be put on the fast track.  After ten years of lawsuits by the environmental community and a tedious permitting process the long-awaited plant is moving forward. 

The deal with SDWA was an effort to reduce San Diego’s dependence on Sacramento-San Joaquin River water.  Smart move on their part.  One of the crucial benefits of desalinated water is that it is reliable and while it may be more expensive now than imported water, it may not be  in 10 years. 

While many are skeptical about the costs of desalinated water, it is part of the solution to California’s water crisis.  If communities located near the coast can be more water independent then that would lessen the need to ship more water south. 

The cost of the Carlsbad plant is $984 million and it will produce 50,000 gallons a day of water.  The estimated cost per acre foot is just over $2,000, which is double the price of imported water.  Rate payers in San Diego are expected to see their monthly water bill increase only $5 to $7 per month, starting in 2016. A reasonable cost for a dependable water supply.    ■

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