Seawater Desalination

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Seawater Desalination

Work begins on nation’s largest ocean desalination plant

After more than two decades of investigating and developing plans for seawater desalination, in November the Water Authority reached a landmark Water Purchase Agreement with Poseidon Water. The move secured the final major element of the Water Authority’s 2020 supply diversification plan. It was quickly followed by closing a financing package on Wall Street that saved an estimated $200 million compared to earlier projections. The total project cost is about $1 billion.

The contract launched construction of Poseidon’s desalination plant in Carlsbad, along with a 10-mile-long pipeline to connect it to Water Authority facilities. At full capacity, the plant will produce 50 million gallons a day of drought-proof supplies as the largest project of its kind in the country. That's enough water to serve 112,000 typical single-family homes.

Since 2010, negotiations between the Water Authority and Poseidon had focused on protecting ratepayers by transferring risk for the design, construction and operation of the desalination plant to the private sector. The Water Authority’s Board voted to approve the 30-year contract after more than 40 public meetings and hearings – an exceptional amount of scrutiny for any project. Along the way, the project withstood and successfully overcame more than a dozen environmental lawsuits.

Desalinated seawater will increase the region’s water security by reducing dependence on imported supplies that are vulnerable to droughts, disasters and regulatory restrictions. Over time, desalinated water is expected to be comparable in price to – or even less expensive than – imported supplies from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

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Celebrating the first signs of success

The region’s water leaders gathered in Carlsbad on June 6 to mark an important early milestone in construction of Poseidon Water’s seawater desalination plant. More than 250 people listened to speeches by Water Authority Chair Thomas V. Wornham, General Manager Maureen Stapleton, Poseidon Water Chief Executive Officer Carlos Riva and others who played pivotal roles in turning the vision into a reality.

The event followed prestigious recognition of the project, honored as the “Desalination Deal of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence and the “North American Water Deal of the Year” by Project Finance magazine.