Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant

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Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant
Carlsbad desalination plant3.jpg
The site of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant is between the lagoon and the Encina Power Station. This view is looking from north to south, prior to construction of the desalination plant
Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is located in San Diego County, California
Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant
Location within San Diego County
Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is located in California
Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant
Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant (California)
Desalination plant
Location Encina Power Station, Carlsbad, California
Coordinates 33°08′11″N 117°20′13″W / 33.13639°N 117.33694°W / 33.13639; -117.33694Coordinates: 33°08′11″N 117°20′13″W / 33.13639°N 117.33694°W / 33.13639; -117.33694
Estimated output 50 million US gallons (190,000 m3) per day (190 megalitres)
Cost US$1,000,000,000[1]
Technology Reverse osmosis
Percent of water supply Estimated 7% of San Diego County
Website (see Project website note under External links)

The Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is a desalination plant that opened on December 14, 2015 in Carlsbad, California, adjacent to the north end of the Encina Power Station.[2][3] The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), the recipient of the fresh water produced by the plant, calls it "the nation’s largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient seawater desalination plant." The entire desalination project cost about $1 billion for the plant, pipelines, and upgrades to existing SDCWA facilities to use the water.


The idea of a desalination plant in San Diego County, California began in 1993 after five years of drought.[1] Membrane technology used in the plant was pioneered by General Atomics in La Jolla.[4] Environmentalists opposed the construction due to various concerns, most notably energy consumption, brine discharge[1] and that the ocean water intake could kill fish.[5] Five lawsuits were brought against the plant, including by Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper, and the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, but none were successful.[4][6]


The plant construction started in December 2012, and was originally scheduled to be completed in 2016.[6][7] However, due to the continuing drought in California, plant completion was advanced to late 2015.[8] The plant began regular operations in December 2015.[9] When it opened it was named after former Carlsbad mayor, who held the position for almost a quarter of a century, Claude "Bud" Lewis;[10] Lewis had died in 2014, and was a supporter of the construction of the desalination plant.[11] After completion, it underwent six months of testing before being put online.[12]

The fresh water output from the plant is sent by a 10-mile (16 km) long, 4.5-foot (1.4 m) diameter pipeline, utilizing six pumps, to connect to the SDCWA distribution system in San Marcos.[13] Pipeline construction began in 2013,[14] and was completed June 28, 2015.[15]

Poseidon Water built the plant.[16] The main engineering companies on this project were GHD Group and U.S.-based Butier Engineering Inc.[17][18][19] IDE Americas Inc., a subsidiary of Israel-based IDE Technologies, designed the plant. IDE Technologies is jointly owned by Delek Group and Israel Chemicals.[20][21] Simon Wong Engineering was subcontracted to provide the design and structural engineering services.[22] J.F. Shea Company and Kiewit Corporation constructed the plant.[23]

The plant took nearly 14 years to build.[4] The total project cost was expected to reach near $1 billion; initial cost estimates were a quarter-billion in 2004, to six hundred ninety million in 2010.[24] The cost of construction was funded by bond sales.[6] In late-2012, Fitch Ratings gave the bonds the lowest investment grade rating.[25] Upon completion, it became the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere.[6]

How it works[edit]

Up to 100,000,000 US gallons (380,000 m3) per day of cooling water from the Encina Power Plant is taken into the desalination plant.[26] The water intake is filtered through gravel, sand, and other media to greatly reduce particulates before going through reverse osmosis filtration.[16] Half of the saltwater taken into the plant is converted into pure potable water and the rest is discharged as concentrated brine.[27]

The outflow of the plant is put into the discharge from the Encina Power Plant for dilution, for a final salt concentration about 20% higher than seawater. Most desalination plants discharge water with about 50% extra salt, which can lead to dead spots in the ocean, because the super-saline brine doesn't mix well with seawater.[16] The NRG Encina Power Station is expected to go offline in 2017, and Poseidon Water will then take over dredging responsibility for the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, taking over from NRG;[28] without dredging at the mouth of the lagoon, it would revert to being a pre-1952 mudflat.[29]

Environmental concerns[edit]

To offset environmental impacts, 66 acres of wetlands were built in San Diego Bay.[6] Solar panels will be installed on the roof of the plant, and carbon emission offsets will be purchased.[30]

San Diego Coastkeeper is suing the SDCWA over environmental concerns. On July 29, 2015 it argued in a hearing before Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack that the Authority's long-term water plan (and specifically the Carlsbad desalination plant) violates the California Environmental Quality Act, specifically with respect to energy needs and the greenhouse gases associated with those. Coastkeeper is not opposed to desalination, but wants proper mitigation. The Authority says that these have been accounted for, and a mitigation plan has been put into place.[31]

Water quantity and cost[edit]

The plant is expected to produce 50 million US gallons (190,000 m3) of water per day[32] (0.069 cubic kilometres per annum) with energy use of ~3.6[33] kWh for 1 m3 fresh water, or ~38 MW of average continuous power.[6][34] Another estimate has the plant requiring 40 MW to operate, and a cost of $49 million to $59 million a year.[1] It will provide about 7% of the potable water needs for the San Diego region.[4]

The cost of water from the plant will be $100 to $200 more per acre-foot than recycled water, $1,000 to $1,100 more than reservoir water, but $100 to $200 less than importing water from outside the county.[35] As of April 2015, San Diego County imported 90% of its water.[13] A conglomerate of California-based environmentalist groups, the Desal Response Group, claimed that the plant will cost San Diego County $108 million a year.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Phillips, Erica E. (20 June 2013). "Water Plant's Long Journey". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  2. ^ "City of Carlsbad - Seawater Desalination". City of Carlsbad. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  3. ^ Fikes, Bradley J. (14 December 2015). "$1-billion desalination plant, hailed as model for state, opens in Carlsbad". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Perry, Tony (4 June 2015). "Backers of desalination hope Carlsbad plant will disarm critics". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  5. ^ Roach, John (17 February 2014). "Parched California Pours Mega-Millions Into Desalination Tech". NBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Rogers, Paul (29 May 2014). "Nation's largest ocean desalination plant goes up near San Diego; Future of the California coast?". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  7. ^ Jason Dearen; Alicia Chang (22 September 2012). "California Drinking Water: Desalination No Panacea For State's Woes". The Huffington Post. New York City. Associated Press. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
    "Carlsbad Desalination Plant Pipeline Halfway Completed". KPBS. San Diego. 29 May 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  8. ^ Gillis, Justin (11 April 2015). "For Drinking Water in Drought, California Looks Warily to Sea". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  9. ^ Fikes, Bradley (13 December 2015). "State's biggest desal plant to open: What it means". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  10. ^ Anderson, Erik (14 December 2015). "Desalination Plant Named For Former Carlsbad Mayor 'Bud' Lewis". KPBS News. San Diego. City News Service. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  11. ^ Henry, Barbara (16 October 2014). "Former Carlsbad mayor Bud Lewis mourned". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b Diehl, Phil (11 April 2015). "Carlsbad desalination project nears completion". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  14. ^ Garske, Monica (29 March 2013). "Pipeline Construction Begins for Carlsbad Desalination Plant". KNSD. San Diego. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d Weiser, Matt (18 October 2014). "Could desalination solve California's water problem?". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  17. ^ "Carlsbad 50 MGD Seawater RO Desalination Plant and Product Water Pipeline". Butier Engineering. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  18. ^ "Carlsbad Desalination Plant (CA, USA)". GHD Group. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Australia's GHD to work on Carlsbad desalination". Desalin. Water Reuse. East Grinstead, UK. 23 March 2009.
  20. ^ Udasin, Sharon (7 January 2013). "Israelis to design San Diego-area desalination plant". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  21. ^ Hackley, Randall (7 January 2013). "IDE Desalination Plant Project Contracts Valued at $650 Million". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  22. ^ "Major New Desalination Plant To Be Built In Southern California". Water Online. VertMarkets, Inc. 18 April 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  23. ^ "Seawater Desalination" (PDF). The Carlsbad Desalination Project. San Diego County Water Authority. March 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015. A joint venture of Kiewit Infrastructure West and J.F. Shea Construction, inc. designed and is building the desalination plant and pipleline.
  24. ^ Lee, Mike (15 June 2012). "Carlsbad desal plant, pipe costs near $1 billion". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  25. ^ Barringer, Felicity (28 February 2013). "In California, What Price Water?". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Sifuentes, Edward (30 November 2014). "Agua Hedionda Lagoon dredging starts soon". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
    Thompson, Konny; Wells, Sam. "Tapping the Pacific". Carlsbad Magazine. Wheelhouse Media, LLC. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  29. ^ Fokos, Barbarella (14 May 2008). "True Lagoon". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  30. ^ Orlowski, Aaron (21 April 2015). "Desalination could provide O.C. an infinite water supply, but at a steep cost". Orange County Register. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  31. ^
  32. ^ Gorman, Steve (11 December 2009). "Desalination project forges ahead in California". Reuters.
    Odenheimer, Alisa; Nash, James (12 February 2014). "Israel Desalination Shows California Not to Fear Drought". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved 9 June 2015. The facility, when finished in 2016, will be able to provide 50 million gallons of potable water a day.
  33. ^ Desalination of Seawater. American Water Works Association. 2011. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-58321-833-4.
  34. ^ Archived November 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  35. ^ Rosenthal, Jessica (20 May 2015). "Desalination: Could One Of California's Drought Solutions Backfire?". Fox News Radio. Retrieved 6 June 2015.

External links[edit]