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On January 8, construction on the Carlsbad Desalination Project hit the one-year mark. The venture is one in which Poseidon Water will turn sea water into potable drinking water for the San Diego County Water Authority. It is hoped that the plant will provide between 7 and 10 percent of the region's overall water supply, roughly enough to provide for 112,000 homes.

Reverse osmosis support beam being lowered into place

Poseidon and water authority officials invited media out to the site on Wednesday to get an update on construction progress. In prepared remarks, Poseidon CEO Carlos Riva told the group that construction of "the largest, most technically advanced and energy efficient desalination project in the Western Hemisphere" was about 25 percent complete. Two miles of delivery pipeline — six feet in diameter — have been installed, with another eight miles left to be trenched in order to transport the finished product to the water authority.

"It's a pleasure to be here today to mark what we've done in the last 12 months, which is far more than had been done in the last 12 years," said Thomas Wornham, chair of the water authority.

Indeed, the project faced numerous hurdles along the way, including applying for a California Coastal Commission permit (acquired in 2009) and amid criticism over the cost and environmental impacts of the project.

Wornham went on to point out other projects, such as adding concrete lining to drainage canals to prevent loss through seepage, and a nearly complete dam expansion at Lakeside's San Vicente reservoir, which will reduce reliance on the Los Angeles–based Metropolitan Water District, which has raised rates on water exports to San Diego several times in recent years.

Carlsbad's mayor, Matt Hall, was also present to praise the project, touting "over $350 million that's been put into our economy directly in Carlsbad, while it's creating over 2,500 jobs." He also gave a nod to neighboring Vista, where massive blue steel support structures — which will house 14 massive reverse-osmosis systems — are being produced.

The desalination plant is scheduled to go online in 2016, at which point it will process 100 million gallons of water per day. Fifty million gallons will be turned into fresh water and pumped to the Twin Oaks Valley Treatment Plant for further processing before being added to the general supply; another 50 million gallons of heavily salted wastewater will be pumped back into the ocean.

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Ken Harrison Jan. 9, 2014 @ 11:02 a.m.

That's why they wouldn't let me into the press conference yesterday. You were already there? Or maybe cuz I showed up unannounced and not invited? I think the most amazing thing about this story is that the investors have waited through 3 different presidents to get this thing going, almost 15 years. And some wonder why California is in the shape its in? Thanks for covering.


Dave Rice Jan. 9, 2014 @ 9:57 p.m.

The Water Authority sent out an invite list and required an RSVP earlier in the week - you had to be on the list, present ID to power plant security, and gear up with safety equipment before they'd let anyone near the site.


Jane Belanger Jan. 9, 2014 @ 12:27 p.m.

I'm curious about the environmental impact of a 50-million-gallon, high-salinity waste stream being pumped into the ocean every day.


Ken Harrison Jan. 9, 2014 @ 2:25 p.m.

The smallest sewer plant along SD's coast is the Cardiff outfall which can pump up to 25 million gal./day of treated sewage from Cardiff/Solana Beach/Escondido. Not to mention the much higher volumes at the Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Pt Loma plants. Water samples taken just few yards away show little pollution as the pressure of being pumped out at 50' below sea level completely disburses the residual poop and pee. Our ocean is mighty powerful, cleans itself in a few day after the strongest of storms or untreated human waste flowing into IB from the Tijuana River. And it consumed millions of tons of Tsunami debris that was supposed to wash up on our shores. And we get clean water that hasn't traveled 300 polluted miles in an open channel from the Colorado River. Our Mother Ocean will take care of itself and do just fine.


Dave Rice Jan. 9, 2014 @ 9:55 p.m.

Though I fail to mention it, there's a "discharge channel" where the waste water from the plant will be diluted with normal sea water, somewhat lessening the potential negative effects of dumping what's effectively doubly-salted water directly into the ocean. The developers claim the channel "ensures that the increased salinity will not impact the marine organisms in the vicinity of the discharge channel," though I've spoken with people who still express concern about creating a marine life "dead zone."


dwbat Jan. 13, 2014 @ 6:51 p.m.

A lack of safe water for humans would really create a "dead zone"! ;-)


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