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California Governor Gavin Newsom speaking at the State of the State address in Sacramento, CA, Mar 8, 2022. (Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)

Gov. Newsom, DWR Announce $5 Million In New Desalination Project Investments

Projects in Torrance, Fresno, Fort Bragg see millions come in despite other agencies ending desalination plants last year

By Evan Symon, April 19, 2023 5:20 pm

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that the state would commit to more desalination programs to get more potable water in the future, allocating $5 million each to programs in Los Angeles, Fresno, and Mendocino counties.

In the past several years, several desalination plants across the state have either been paused or outright rejected by state officials. The most high-profile of these, the Huntington Beach Poseidon Water desalination plant, was rejected last year by the California Coastal Commission after over 20 years of planning. While many have opposed them because of environmental and water cost reasons, the water situation in California in recent years has grown dire due to the megadrought in the Western U.S. The large number of atmospheric river events in the first quarter of this year managed to provide a reprieve for 2023, but that water won’t last without new reservoirs and water storage, and new sources will need to be found, with the most tenable being desalination.

That led to the backing of three more desalination pants in the state by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Governor Newsom on Wednesday. While the DWR has awarded over $82 million in Proposition 1 desalination grants supporting around 20 projects in the past, they often went ahead over other agencies as they had the tendency to knock those projects down. But with Governor Newsom now backing them, the projects may now see more state support.

The three announced on Wednesday, according to the DWR and the Governor’s office, are as follows:

  • Water Replenishment District of Southern California Construction Project: In Los Angeles County, a project in the City of Torrance will construct a conveyance pipeline to connect an existing well to the existing Goldsworthy Desalter system and install a self-cleaning auto-strainer. The project will reduce the community’s reliance on imported water, provide a sustainable local potable water supply, and increase desalinated water production by 1,120-acre feet per year or approximately enough water for 2,200 households.
  • Westlands Water District Design Pilot Project: In Fresno County, the project will desalinate brackish groundwater from the westside upper aquifer and use salt-tolerant plants to remove salts from the brine. The project will provide cost-effective, reliable and high-quality water to the district and the communities of Coalinga, Huron, and Avenal.
  • City of Fort Bragg Design Pilot Project: Near the City of Fort Bragg, the project will install an innovative, wave-powered seawater desalination iceberg buoy to provide potable water to residents. The project will diversify the city’s water supply portfolio, create a locally controlled, sustainable, and carbon-free potable water supply, produce water without grid electricity, and strengthen water resiliency during future droughts.

The Torrance, Fresno, and Fort Bragg projects are to receive $5 million in Proposition 1 desalination grants to help expand brackish groundwater desalination production by 28,000 acre-feet per year by 2030 to help combat future droughts and water shortages.

“California is taking action to adapt to the extremes in weather we’re seeing across the state, reshaping our water systems to meet these new challenges and better protect our communities,” said Governor Newsom in a statement. “Our all-of-the-above approach includes capturing and storing more water and innovative solutions like desalination to boost supplies and prepare for a hotter, drier future.”

DWR Director Karla Nemeth added, “California faces a range of water supply challenges, and climate change continues to intensify shifts between weather extremes as we’ve seen this season. The state is exploring all opportunities to invest in innovative strategies like desalination to meet our growing water needs — including treating brackish water and ocean water where it’s environmentally appropriate on our 840 miles of coastline.”

Many praised the recommitment to more desalination projects on Wednesday, but noted that California has continued to flip-flop back and forth between being in favor and being against desalination projects, and that a more firmer commitment would be needed to see larger potable water gains in the future.

“Every time one state agency seems to move desalination forward, another agency pushes it back,” said Alonzo Taylor-Morgan, a water control specialist, to the Globe on Wednesday. “California needs a deeper commitment and for all the agencies to get into line for a clear goal. It’s good more were approved today. The DWR is really pulling for more water resources. But other agencies, like the Coastal Commission, need to stop interfering.

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Evan Symon
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4 thoughts on “Gov. Newsom, DWR Announce $5 Million In New Desalination Project Investments

  1. Being in the business of helping energy developers secure environmental permits for projects, $5 million in development costs in CA is just starter funding for one of these projects. If the state were serious, each project would receive that amount. Having been tangentially involved in the Huntington Beach project, that developer’s investment was likely several multiples of this funding.

    1. ^^^ What Pete said….

      $5 mill won’t even pay for the pizza party for the kickoff party for this initiative and all the consultants that the whackjobs in State government will pull into it….

  2. I’d much rather see DWR and the state keep their decades old promises of additional storage instead of spending all the bond money on consultants and multiple environmental studies or commissions staffed by retired political hacks and former state employees.

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