Largest Seawater Desalination Plant in US Online

By Karen Henry | December 15, 2015

Operations are officially under way at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant — the nation’s largest and most technologically advanced seawater desalination plant. The plant has already produced more than 1.5 billion gallons of locally controlled water for San Diego County, helping to minimize the region’s vulnerability to the statewide drought.

The plant, which will be operated by IDE Technologies, will be the first water infrastructure project in the state to have a zero net carbon footprint.

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is the result of a 30-year water purchase agreement between the plant’s developer and owner, Poseidon Water, and the San Diego County Water Authority for the production of up to 56,000 acre-feet of water per year. It is a major component of the Water Authority’s multi-decade strategy to diversify the region’s water supply portfolio.

The $1 billion desalination project includes three main components: the desalination plant adjacent to NRG Energy’s Encina Power Station on Agua Hedionda Lagoon; a 10-mile pipeline that connects to the Water Authority’s regional distribution system; and upgrades to Water Authority facilities for distributing desalinated seawater throughout the region.

The Carlsbad plant uses reverse osmosis to produce approximately 10 percent of the region’s water supply. It costs less than 0.5 cents to produce a gallon of drinking water at the plant. Desalinated water will cost typical homeowners in the region about an additional $5 per month, in line with the low end of projections when the project was launched in late 2012.

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