Cal Am applies for US$ 3 million desalination intake grant

California American Water (Cal Am) is seeking a US$ 1 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources to help fund the installation of a US$ 3 million slant test well, which is needed for its proposed Monterey desalination project.

The company is applying for the maximum amount the grant program allows under Proposition 50 grants for a pilot or test project that advances desalination as part of California’s water supply.

“We have been tracking this opportunity for some time,” said Cal Am president Robert MacLean. “I can’t imagine anyone has a better fit. If we are awarded this grant, it would fulfill the state’s objective and provide a direct benefit to the Monterey Peninsula community.”

Cal Am is moving forward with the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, as a response to enforced reduced pumping from the Carmel River by 2016. The largest component of the project is a 6.4 or 9.6 MGD (24,000 or 36,000 m³/d) reverse-osmosis plant that would draw seawater from slant wells extended beneath the ocean floor.

These subsurface intakes are the preferred technology of California permitting agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Coastal Commission. The proposed Huntington Beach desalination project is now also investigating a similar intake.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration recently issued guidelines for desalination projects within the sanctuary and directed any project proponent to pursue subsurface intakes where feasible. The company is building a slant test well to determine the feasibility of the slant well construction techniques in addition to determining the quantity and quality of the source water that can be drawn from the well.

The company’s grant application adds to a robust cost-saving plan embedded in the project, which includes low-interest State Revolving Fund loans and an innovative proposal to accept a local public agency contribution of US$ 78/99 million, depending on the plant size. The total project cost is currently estimated at US$ 277/320 million.

Cal Am plans to begin construction of the test well in November 2014. The larger project is expected to be complete in late 2018.