California adopts new rules for checking desalination applications

California regulators have adopted the states’ first rules for the permitting of seawater desalination projects.

The rules set uniform standards for limiting harm to marine life. They were welcomed by developers of the state’s two largest desalination projects as bringing certainty and clarity to the regulatory approval process.

“It reaffirms that the Pacific Ocean is part of the drinking water resources for the state of California,” Poseidon Water executive Scott Maloni told Reuters after the rule was put into place by the State Water Resources Control Board.

The rules leave the permitting process with the state’s regional water boards while establishing a single framework for them to follow when evaluating applications to build seawater treatment plants, expand existing ones or renew old permits.

Under the new measures, regional decisions could be appealed to the state board for review were opponents of a project to judge that a permit was wrongly approved.

Before the new rules were introduced, developers and regulators of desalination plants had no specific guidance for meeting federal and state clean water standards.

California is anticipating a proliferation of desalination plants among the states growing number of drought-stricken communities.