Carlsbad Desalination Plant Provides New Reliable Water Source

Carlsbad-Dessalination-PlantDecember saw the dedication and start of operations of California’s first seawater desalination Plant in Carlsbad. Named in honor of former Carlsbad Mayor Claude “Bud” Lewis, the desalination plant is the result of a 30-year water purchase agreement between the San Diego County Water Authority and the plant’s builder and operator, Poseidon Water. The plant will produce up to 56,000 acre-feet of water per year, roughly a million gallons per day, enough to serve 400,000 households per year.

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant has become a critical part of the Water Authority’s efforts to diversify its water supply and provide new reliable water resources for its member agencies. But the importance of the desalination plant extends beyond what it means to the Water Authority and the San Diego area. Tapping into desalinated seawater is a critical step forward for all of California, not only as the State struggles through a difficult period of drought, but as a long-term water resource that reduces the strain on other resources.

The Poseidon plant represents a first step forward, but more than likely it will not be the last of its kind. Already, the Water Authority is conducting a feasibility study on another desalination plant that could be built near Camp Pendleton. In my discussions with community members in the Imperial Valley, some have asked why it has taken so long for seawater desalination to become a reality in California. Keep in mind, these projects take a great deal of time to plan and develop, and to work through the critical environmental issues that must be addressed (and are being addressed at the Carlsbad facility). It also takes a great deal of commitment to such a project as the water is costly. The water produced at the Carlsbad plant costs over $2,000 an acre-foot. That said, the dedication and start of operations at the facility have set a critical path forward.

We at the Water Authority are proud of the facility and the excitement it has generated. On Jan. 22, we will be taking a group of Imperial Valley representatives on a tour of the facility—the second tour we have done for Imperial Valley reps (the first was in October 2014 before the plant was completed). While the tour is filled up, please contact me if interested in future tours. The Water Authority would be happy to do more tours if the interest is there. You can send me an email at if interested in a future tour.

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the push for desalination. To learn more about the Carlsbad facility, check out the Water Authority’s web page for the plant at