How We Do It

The Road to Desalination

The idea for a seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad arose in the 1990’s, and it took years of planning and review to make that vision a reality. Taking into account the needs of the local community, the region and the environment, a team of engineers and experts developed a proposal for a desalination plant adjacent to the Encina Power Station on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and a 10-mile pipeline to transport the desalinated water to the Water Authority’s Second Aqueduct in San Marcos.

By the end of 2012, all the necessary approvals were in place. The Water Authority and Poseidon Water entered into a 30-year Water Purchase Agreement for the entire output of the plant, and construction began. It took nearly three years and more than a million labor hours to complete the project and start commercial operations.

  • Late 1998 – Idea emerges for seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad
  • Mid 2000 – Desalination feasibility study complete
  • Early 2003 – Desalination project environmental review process begins
  • 2006 – 2008 – Project approved by Carlsbad City Council, Regional Water Quality Control Board and California Coastal Commission
  • Mid 2009 – Regional Water Quality Control Board approve Poseidon Water’s environmental stewardship package
  • 2012 – Water Purchase Agreement executed between Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority; $734 million in private bonds sold; construction begins on Carlsbad Desalination Project
  • Late 2015 – Plant begins delivering 50 million gallons per day of drought-proof water

Infrastructure

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is located on a six-acre site within NRG Energy’s property. The plant conforms to the 35-foot height limit in the Local Coastal Plan, and has been designed to ensure compatibility with future land use in the area.

 

Operations

Operation of the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant began in December 2015. The plant operates 24 hours a day, seven days per week. IDE Technologies, a world leader in desalination technology and operations, currently operates the plant. The plant employs 36 full-time employees and at least two operators are on site 24 hours a day.

Water Purchase Agreement

In December 2012, Poseidon Water finalized a 30-year water agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority for the purchase of 50 million gallons per day of desalinated seawater and secured financing for the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

The water purchase agreement (WPA) between Poseidon and the San Diego County Water Authority is a 30-year take-if-delivered contract. The WPA commits the Water Authority to purchase a minimum 48,000 acre-feet per year of product water and provides the option to demand a maximum 56,000 AF/year.

The terms of the WPA allow the Water Authority to purchase the desalinated water at a fixed rate for the next 30 years, providing significant protection for consumers. It is estimated that the cost of imported water will continue to rise over time, meaning that desalinated water will soon be less expensive than the water we import from Northern California and the Colorado River.

For more information on the Water Purchase Agreement, please visit the San Diego County Water Authority.