Opinion: Socal’s Water Planning Offers Lesson for State

Another historic drought has gripped the West and California, with the entire state facing abnormally dry conditions and 87% of it facing an extreme drought, according to the latest federal data. Yet Southern Californians are in far better shape to handle the situation than Northern Californians thanks to policies that southern water agencies have adopted.

Two-thirds of the state’s rain falls in Northern California, which has one-third of the state’s population — and vice versa. Yet many northern cities are running out of water, with several San Francisco Bay Area communities already adopting water rationing and water-use restrictions. This isn’t happenstance, but the result of planning — or lack thereof.

Carlsbad Desalination Plant-oil spill-Lagoon-boom protection

Desal Plant Operations Continue; Protective Boom Installed at Lagoon

(Editor’s note: As of Friday, October 8, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant continues operating at full production with no indication of oil in the feed water. As a precautionary measure, protective booms have been placed at several locations in the Aqua Hedionda Lagoon, including in front of the desalination plant intake).

Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority issued the following joint statement in response to emergency response efforts following the recent oil spill off the coast of Orange County. No oil has been detected by the plant’s monitoring system.

“The San Diego County Water Authority and Poseidon Water appreciate precautionary efforts by state emergency response crews to install a protective boom at the mouth of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, which provides intake water for the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. State agencies are also installing a second barrier near the plant intake.

Tarballs Found Along San Diego Coastline, Orange County Oil Spill Suspected

Large clusters of tarballs were found along beaches in Oceanside and Carlsbad, San Diego County officials said Thursday, with similar reports being made in Encinitas and Del Mar.

The black balls of tar, about the size of a quarter, are suspected to have come from the massive oil spill off the coast of Orange County, where a ruptured pipeline has spewed more than 144,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean.

City Takes Possession of Water Desalination Unit

On Tuesday, September 14, the City of Fort Bragg council declared a Stage 4 Water Crisis at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night. A Stage 4 Water Crisis targets a 30-40% decrease in seasonal water use based on the most recent year in which water conservation measures were not required (2019).

Six months ago the City of Fort Bragg ordered a desalination-reverse osmosis treatment system to help provide drinking water during periods of saltwater intrusion at its main Noyo River water source. The skid-mounted unit has arrived and can produce 200 gallons of desalinated water a minute, or 288,000 gallons of water per day, but because the unit can only run for 12 hours a day, the daily capacity will top out at 144,000 gallons.

Carlsbad Desalination Plant Maintains Safe Operations, Monitors Orange County Oil Spill

CARLSBAD, Calif. (Oct. 6, 2021) – Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority issued the following joint statement in response to the recent oil spill off the coast of Orange County:

“The oil spill has not affected the operations of the Claude ‘Bud’ Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. The facility is San Diego County’s largest single source of locally produced drinking water, generating nearly 80 billion gallons of drought-proof water since operations started in December 2015.

“Water quality in Carlsbad’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon – the desalination plant’s intake source – is continually monitored for more than a half-dozen seawater parameters, including oil-in-water concentration. Per State of California requirements in the facility’s drinking water permit, the desalination plant will shut down if the hydrocarbon concentration of source seawater reaches 300 parts per billion. While there has been no indication of oil from Orange County reaching Carlsbad, the facility’s operating team will continue to closely monitor intake water quality.

“In addition, Poseidon Water and the Water Authority are working with local, state, and federal agencies to assess potential preemptive actions in case conditions change, including installation of a floating boom at the mouth of the lagoon. That would protect the lagoon for marine life and ensure the desalination plant can stay online, which minimizes the San Diego region’s demands on other water resources.”

Drought: Marin, Saudi Crown Prince Eyeing Same Desalination Plants

Marin County water officials are thinking of buying three desalination plants to bolster local supplies, but they’re facing an unlikely competitor — Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Marin Municipal Water District, which might deplete its reservoirs by next summer if the drought continues, had considered renting two portable desalination plants for nearly $30 million from Osmoflo, an Australian company. Last week, the district staff said a third plant has become available and that purchasing them might be less expensive than renting.

Repeal of County Law Prohibiting Private Operation of Desal Plants Set for Sept. 21 Discussion

Monterey County is the only county is California with a law that prohibits private companies from operating new desalination plants. That law, passed in 1989, will be up for a potential repeal when the county’s supervisors meet on Sept. 21.

The law has been thrust into the spotlight as Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp., a publicly traded, $11 billion Canada-based company, has proposed construction of what could be a massive regional desalination plant in Moss Landing.

Drought: Transbay Pipeline, Desalination Plant Could Boost Marin’s Dwindling Water Supply

Communities across the state are desperately searching for ways to make their dwindling water supplies last. In Marin County, one water district is considering sources that they’ve looked to in the past.

The Marin Municipal Water District gets almost all of its water from the Mt. Tamalpais watershed. But one look at Nicasio Reservoir, now at less than 30 percent capacity, shows how dire the supply situation is becoming.

Antioch Approves $87 Million Bid for Brackish Water Desalination Plant

Shimmick Construction Co. has been awarded a nearly $87 million contract to build Antioch’s brackish water desalination plant.

The City Council unanimously approved the company’s bid during a special meeting Friday after rejecting a protest bid from C. Overaa & Co., which also wanted the job. The $86,689,000 contract with Shimmick will include a 5% contingency of $4,334,450 in case of unforeseen costs for a total of $91,023,450.

In addition, council members authorized city staff to increase the total budget for the desalination project to $110 million. Earlier projections had estimated it would cost nearly $70 million.

Santa Barbara, Montecito Set to Make Historic 50 Year Water Deal Official

A South Coast community is celebrating a historic deal this week which will help lock in a reliable, drought-proof water supply for the next half century. The Montecito Water District is signing a 50 year water supply agreement with the City of Santa Barbara Wednesday. The water district is buying into the city’s desalination plant, which converts salt water into fresh water.