First Desalination Plant Opens in Carlsbad

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On December 15th, the Encina Power Station was dedicated by Israeli water company, IDE Technologies who are working on another 10 plants across the country. IDE Americas Inc. CEO, Mark Lambert explained that the opening of the facility is, “putting the Pacific on tap for San Diego County, bolstering the region’s water reliability for decades to come.”

Located in San Diego County near Carlsbad, the Encina plant, “will provide 50 million gallons of desalinated seawater per day. The privately financed project will produce enough drinking water for 300,000 San Diegans annually and provide the county with approximately 10 percent of its total water supply.”

This is the first facility, but another at Huntington Beach is being built, with the goal of becoming operational by 2019. Located adjacent to the AES Huntington Beach Power Station, this second facility should provide 50 million gallons of fresh water every day. The new desalination plants will provide water that will meet or exceed all state and federal drinking water standards.

A three month study on the Californian water crisis has been underway by NBC’s San Francisco Bay Area Investigation team. The findings are flowing; the solution to the water shortage is not that we are without rain but that we are enmeshed in bureaucracy. This means that innovative solutions and business models that could ease drought implications are being pushed to the side in favor of the status quo.

As the water goes down the plug, hopes for a timely response are being washed away. Meanwhile, it could be decades until we have sufficient rainfall to support the current status quo.

In October, the NBC reporting team made an official visit to Israel where they saw first- hand the successful Israeli innovations. Israel has now the ability to produce more water than the country needs. Rain is not the farmers’ greatest dilemma.

This does not mean that the same actions would work for California. Every region has their unique needs, geography and rainfall. On the other hand, it is clear that the sunshine state needs to blend elements of desalination and recycling and increase the speed of the permitting process to increase long-term water viability.

Californian, Stephen DeBerry, is founder and CIO of Bronze Investments and spoke to the NBC investigators while they were visiting Israel, saying, “I think we (the State of California) have got to get out of our own way. There’s no shortage of capital in Silicon Valley. There’s no shortage of innovation. There’s no shortage of people. This is what we excel at.”

Trevi Systems CEO, John Webley, knows his state-of-the-art water technology “forward osmosis” system incorporates a desalinated water plant that is energy efficient. “We’re trying to get it down to about a quarter of the energy as reverse osmosis,” Webley explained. “That’s a big savings.” This year Trevi Systems received a grant from the California Energy Commission to treat Orange County wastewater but they found the permitting of other local projects was too cumbersome.

Instead, an Abu Dhabi consortium purchased the system and placed a multi-million dollar order for a plant that makes 50 tons of water a day. Meanwhile, Israel, with nearly a fifth of the population of California, has five desalination plants in action.