Carlsbad Desalination Plant Scoops Major Award at Membrane Event

The desalination facility in Carlsbad, Calif., needs little in the way of introduction and has once again been recognized for excellence.

The desalination facility in Carlsbad, Calif., needs little in the way of introduction and has once again been recognized for excellence. At the recent Membrane Technology Conference (MTC), an event jointly produced by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the American Membrane Technology Association (AMTA), the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant was named this year’s Membrane Facility of the Year.

The award recognizes “an outstanding water or wastewater facility that uses any membrane technology with high efficiency in an environmentally friendly approach.” According to AWWA and AMTA, the Carlsbad plant is the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient seawater desalination plant in the nation.

It truly is a remarkable facility. We visited it last year, just a few months before the plant went into full operation, and it was hard not to be impressed. At the heart of the plant, 18,000 reverse osmosis membranes are housed inside 2,200 pressure vessels.

At that time, Bob Yamada, director of water resources for San Diego County Water Authority, told me that the facility “will add 7 to 10 percent to our overall water supply here in San Diego County. Most importantly, the Carlsbad Desalination Project represents a new, local water supply for San Diego County.” It was expected to produce 50 million gallons per day (mgd) of potable water and “more than double the amount of local water that we’ve been able to develop in this region since 1991,” he added.

In fact, the facility is producing 54 mgd, said IDE Americas CEO Gilad Cohen during our interview at MTC last month. Describing the technology being utilized at the plant, Cohen said, “[It’s] state-of-the-art, exercising some of the most advanced technology, including energy recovery devices that allow reusing a lot of energy back into the plant.”

During our site visit in 2015, then-CEO of IDE Americas Mark Lambert explained that the technology “recovers a majority of the high pressure that has been imparted to the feed water, and that energy is recovered on the incoming feed water side.”

“It’s based on technologies that were all developed in Israel and exercised before in different plants,” said Cohen, “and we’re looking forward to additional projects starting here in the United States.”

Cohen said that, even as we spoke, another desalination facility was close to being commissioned in Santa Barbara, Calif. “We’re going to start full operation somewhere around March or April,” he said, “servicing the water around the city of Santa Barbara and in addition maybe as a regional solution as well.” He added that there’s more to come... and when there is, we’ll be sure to keep you posted!

In the meantime, check out my full interview with Gilad Cohen, as well as our video case study profiling the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, at

More WaterWorld Current Issue Articles
More WaterWorld Archives Issue Articles

More in Technologies