Advisor ups Santa Barbara desalination restart cost by 25%

The city council of Santa Barbara in California may need to add to its planned water rates increase to cover the cost of a restart to the city’s mothballed desalination plant according to acting water advisor, Josh Haggmark. He issued his warning after upping his US$ 32 million September estimate of the cost of re-booting the plant by about 25%.

The increase would add to the plant’s U$ 5 million a year operating cost. The council is poised to sign a contract to restart the plant next April to have it in operation for next summer.

The Charles E Meyer reverse osmosis desalination facility has been on standby status since the mid-1990s, and US$ 40 million is needed to pay for upgrades before it’s operational again.  Without its reinstatement the city faces a 60% drop in water supply.

Santa Barbara has declared a Stage II drought, which includes water-use restrictions and drought water rates for utility customers.

The city’s drought plan includes desalination. It has calculated that without it, the council has estimated that Santa Barbara will have inadequate resources from 2016. The city has said its supplies for he year from October 1, 2014 will hold out only if customers cut their use by 20%.