MoU signed to advance Camp Pendleton desalination plant

A planning agreement providing a framework for progress on a major regional seawater desalination plant at Camp Pendleton in Southern California was signed in April.

The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) board of directors and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) setting out terms and conditions for the water authority to conduct offshore and onshore technical studies and to provide a framework for Camp Pendleton to evaluate whether a desalination facility would adversely impact military training, the environment or the quality of life of Camp Pendleton residents.

The studies will enable the SDCWA to evaluate the feasibility and cost of building and operating a seawater desalination plant on the base capable of producing 50 million gallons (189,000 m³) or more of drinking water daily. The MoU does not obligate either party beyond the study phase.

"Our current water shortage sharply reinforces the fact we not only have to carefully manage our current water resources, but that we must continue to pursue a strategic vision for securing additional supplies to meet our region's needs in the future," said Maureen Stapleton, SDCWA general manager. "Seawater desalination is an important part of the water authority's long-term strategy to increase the region's water supply reliability through diversifying our portfolio of local and imported water resources."

In 2005, the SDCWA established a goal to develop 89,000 acre-feet (110 million m³) of desalinated seawater enough to meet approximately 10% of the region's projected 2020 water supply needs. The scheduled completion of the privately developed Carlsbad seawater desalination project in 2012 will meet 56,000 acre-feet (69 million m³) of that goal. The SDCWA's Urban Water Management Plan determined that the remaining 33,000 acre-feet could come from a new project at Camp Pendleton.

Two potential sites for the plant, both in the southwest corner of the base near the mouth of the Santa Margarita River, were reviewed as part of a feasibility study in 2009. That SDCWA study identified Camp Pendleton as a desirable location for several reasons:

  • The location has the potential availability of a coastal site large enough to accommodate a large-scale, expandable facility;

  • A plant at Camp Pendleton could produce between 50-150 million gallons per day (189,000-568,000 m³/d;

  • A facility at the north end of the SDCWA's regional aqueduct system also would allow for more extensive and efficient distribution of the desalinated water.

  • The Camp Pendleton seawater desalination studies, along with similar studies planned or under way for potential sites in Baja California, will be used in the development of a 2012 Regional Water Facilities Master Plan. The SDCWA will use the plan to determine the need for additional seawater desalination, compare it against other supply alternatives, and recommend projects for inclusion in its capital improvement program in order to meet future water supply reliability needs for San Diego County.


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