Largest US desalination plant opens in San Diego County

Dec. 15, 2015

The plant uses reverse osmosis to produce about 10 percent of the area’s water supply.

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Dec. 14, 2015 — The Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is now in operation and has already produced more than 1.5 billion gallons of water for San Diego County residents, according to a press release.

More than 600 elected officials, community leaders and project partners were on-hand to dedicate the facility, touted as the nation’s largest and most advanced desalination plant, noted the release. The plant was named in honor of the late Carlsbad Mayor Claude "Bud" Lewis.

The facility is part of an agreement between the San Diego County Water Authority of Poseidon Water, which owns the plant, stated the release. The 30-year water purchase agreement includes producing up to 56,000 acre-feet of water per year to serve about 400,000 people and diversify the region’s water supply portfolio.

Key facts about the plant include:

  • Reverse osmosis is used to produce about 10 percent of the area’s water supply.
  • The water produced is blended with water from other sources for regional distribution.
  • A gallon of drinking water costs less than five cents to produce at the facility.
  • Most homeowners will spend an approximately five dollars more per month for the desalinated water, the cost of which was factored in the water authority’s 2016 rates.

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“Dedication of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant marks a major milestone in California water history,” said Mark Weston, chair of the water authority’s board of directors, in the release. “The water authority and its member agencies have been aggressively diversifying the region’s water supply for decades, and the Carlsbad Desalination Plant is a major component of that effort. We crafted a strategy of conservation and innovation in the early 1990s, and today it is protecting our $218 billion economy and the quality of life enjoyed by 3.2 million residents."

Through several strategies, the water authority has 99 percent of the water supplies needed to meet the usual demands of the year, shared the release. Since the 1987-1992 drought, the agency has helped local member agencies develop their own water sources; implemented a far-reaching agriculture-to-urban water conservation and transfer agreement; and realized canal-lining projects in the Imperial Valley to secure more reliable Colorado River water supplies.

Read more on: Desalination

The new plant created about 2,500 jobs and injected $350 million into the local economy, reported the release. Many partners were involved in the project in addition to the water authority, including Poseidon Water, IDE Technologies, Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and Kiewit-Shea Desalination.

IDE Technologies will operate the facility, noted the release. “IDE Technologies is thrilled to bring its experience designing and operating some of the world’s most advanced seawater desalination plants to the United States,” said IDE Americas Inc. CEO Mark Lambert in the release. “With operations under way in Carlsbad, we are putting the ‘Pacific on tap’ for San Diego County, bolstering the region’s water reliability for decades to come.”

You can find the entire release here.

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