Pacific Institute report lists California desalination plans

The Pacific Institute (PI) has published a list of all the currently proposed seawater desalination plants in California, USA, as a precursor to a new desalination report in 2013.

As of July 2012, says the report, Proposed Seawater Desalination Facilities in California, there are 17 seawater desalination plants proposed for development along the California coast. (However, six of these are for Monterey, where only one is likely to see the light of day).

Two additional plants that would provide water to southern California residents are also under consideration in Baja Mexico.

The report’s authors are PI co-director Heather Cooley, who co-wrote the institute’s controversial 2006 report Desalination, With A Grain Of Salt, and research associate Kristina Donnelly. The current publication is solely factual, but publication of a new analysis is promised in 2013.

Since the 2006 report, only one project – a small plant in Sand City – has been permitted and built. The Carlsbad Seawater Desalination Plant is fully permitted, although project financing and contracting details are still under discussion.

The report quotes Water Desalination Report editor, Tom Pankratz, referring in 2009 to the “sluggish pace of development in California and the rest of the US”, but points out that others contend that the situation in California is not so dire, as evidenced by the many agencies that continue to conduct technical and environmental studies and pilot projects to determine whether to develop full-scale facilities.

The total combined capacity of the proposed plants ranges from 390 to 570 MGD (1.5‑2.2 million m³/d), which is about 50 MGD (189,000 m³/d – the size of Huntington Beach) more than was proposed in 2006. If all of these plants were built and fully utilized, seawater desalination would supply 5% to 7% of average urban water demand in California between 2000 and 2005.

Some of the plants under consideration are the same, or similar, to those proposed in 2006. Others, including plants in Long Beach and Crockett, are no longer under consideration.

In a release accompanying the report, PI says that, because more research and analysis were needed, the institute initiated a new research project on seawater desalination in 2011. As part of that effort, PI conducted some 25 one-on-one interviews with industry experts, water agencies, community groups, and regulatory agencies to identify some of the key outstanding issues.

Heather Cooley updated Desalination, With A Grain Of Salt in an article in Desalination & Water Reuse (August/September 2007), while Nikolay Voutchkov, then associated with the Carlsbad project, wrote a response to the report in D&WR (November/December 2007).

One of the listed plants, the BARDP project around San Francisco Bay, will be featured in D&WR‘s August/September issue, which is going to press right now.