West Basin desalination demo could begin next year

Construction could begin in 2010 on the Ocean-Water Desalination Demonstration Project at Redondo Beach near Los Angeles, California, the West Basin Municipal Water District announced on 30 July 2009.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has recently approved the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, completing the regulatory process. The California Coastal Commission approved the coastal development permit application in April 2009.

Once built, the demonstration project will operate for 2 years. The district has a goal to provide 10% of West Basin’s water supply from desalted seawater by 2020, with the remainder to be supplied through water recycling, water conservation, groundwater and imported water.

The project, to be built at the LA Conservation Corps’ SEA Lab aquarium and educational center, will provide full-scale testing of membrane technologies – either micro- or ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis – to be used in a future 20 MGD (77,000 m³/d) desalination plant.

The project will test new intake technologies to evaluate impingement and entrainment and maximize protection to marine life. Wedgewire screen technology at the 1-2 mm level will be tested. Sub-ocean floor intake technology will also be tested at the piloting level to assess the feasibility of withdrawing and filtering seawater through the ocean floor.

“Ocean-water desalination is now cost effective and energy efficient enough to be part of West Basin’s future water portfolio,” said West Basin board president Edward C Little. “We need this high quality, reliable supply to meet future water shortfalls.”

As part of West Basin’s research, a special aquarium will be installed at SEA Lab to monitor and ensure that the concentrated salt water from the desalination process is safe for sea life in Santa Monica Bay. It will be next to a Santa Monica Bay natural environment aquarium, part of West Basin’s educational outreach program to share research findings with the public and educate the community.

West Basin will additionally test an energy-recovery system to recover and reuse energy that could otherwise be lost in the desalination process and to minimize energy consumption.