CARLSBAD, CA, Jan. 10, 2014 -- After a year, construction on California's Carlsbad Desalination Project -- the Western Hemisphere's largest seawater desalination plant -- is more than 25 percent complete. Likewise, city leaders, San Diego County Water Authority board officers, IDE Technologies, NRG Energy, and Poseidon Water executives visited the site on Wednesday, Jan. 8, to mark the plant's first anniversary.
The $1 billion venture, launched in late 2012, is within budget and on schedule to start producing water in 2016. Besides the plant, the project includes a large-diameter pipeline in North County, along with upgrades to Water Authority facilities. It will account for about one-third of all the water generated in San Diego County, helping reduce reliance on imported water as part of the Water Authority's multi-decade strategy to improve the reliability of the region's water supply by diversifying its portfolio of water sources.
During the three-year construction process, the desalination project is supporting an estimated 2,500 jobs and infusing $350 million into the local economy. In the first year of construction, joint-venture contractor Kiewit Shea Desalination achieved a perfect safety rating, with no reports of injury or violations building what will be the nation's most technologically-advanced and energy-efficient seawater desalination plant.
In November 2012, the Water Authority signed a 30-year agreement to purchase at least 48,000 acre-feet of desalinated seawater each year from Poseidon, as long as it meets pre-set quality and quantity requirements. The Water Authority may purchase up to 56,000 acre-feet annually, enough to serve about 112,000 typical single-family homes. The innovative public-private partnership (PPP) quickly secured a financing deal that has since been hailed as groundbreaking by trade publications, and construction started in late December 2012.
The reverse osmosis (RO) plant in Carlsbad will connect to the Water Authority's aqueduct via a 10-mile pipeline through Carlsbad, Vista and San Marcos. Pipeline installation is nearing completion in San Marcos and Vista; construction in Carlsbad is under way and expected to last through 2015. In addition, the Water Authority is making about $80 million in upgrades to its own facilities so it can deliver desalinated seawater into its Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant for distribution throughout the region. In 2020, the project will meet about 7 percent of the region's water demand.
"The past two dry years in California, plus the prospect of a third dry year in 2014, underscore the importance and value of investing in long-term, drought-proof water sources such as the Carlsbad Desalination Project," said Thomas V. Wornham, chair of the Water Authority's board of directors. "We are pleased with the progress to date and eager for the plant to start producing water that will help support our region's 3.1 million residents and its $188 billion economy."