West Basin district dedicates desalination demo facility

California’s West Basin Municipal Water District is nearing completion of its new desalination demonstration facility, following formal dedication of the plant on 12 November 2010.

The plant at the SEA Lab in Redondo Beach will be open to the public in a community “open house” on 4 December 2010.

The demonstration facility will treat about 580,000 GPD (2,195 m³/d) of Pacific ocean water. It hosts ultrafiltration, reverse-osmosis and energy-recovery technologies. Similar membrane water purification processes are used at West Basin’s 30 MGD (113,500 m³/d) wastewater recycling facility in El Segundo.

The facility is designed to evaluate and monitor full-scale equipment, except that the brine concentrate will be recombined with the purified water and sent back to the ocean at the same concentration as the intake water. The facility is expected to operate for up to two years to provide data on how to proceed with a full-scale desalination plant.

Two ocean water intake technologies have been installed at the demonstration facility. Wedgewire screens, which create small eddies and move fish and other marine life away from intake pipes, and a sand filtration system, which simulates sub-ocean floor withdrawal of intake water, are both in operation. Both technologies help protect surrounding sea life.

This is the first time the wedgewire screens have been operated and evaluated in an open-ocean environment, protecting the ocean at the source.

Adjacent to the demonstration facility is West Basin’s new Water Education Center exploring the reliability of imported water coming into Southern California, the importance of using water efficiently and an explanation and model of the technology used in the desalination process.

The Education Center makes available video footage from an underwater camera monitoring the marine life living around the wedgewire intake screens. There are also live fish tanks with identical species, one with ocean water and the other with the concentrated brine discharge, to demonstrate the safe levels of salts in the brine concentrate in which the marine life flourish.