CARLSBAD — Three years and 40 billion gallons later the Carlsbad Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination plant is humming along.
The facility is touted as the largest and most technologically advanced in the Western Hemisphere and on Dec. 13, VIPs and various stakeholders gathered in celebration of the plant supplying about 10 percent of drinking water to San Diego County.
The desalination plant opened three years ago to much fanfare, and some criticism, as one of the crown jewels for Poseidon Water, which owns the facility. It pumps in about 50 million gallons of water per day and is a source for protection against severe drought.
“Despite a lot of rainfall the last couple of weeks, desalinated seawater is part of our core supply,” said Carlos Riva, CEO of Poseidon Water. “We don’t have to only rely on snowpack and rainfall.”
Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said the project took more than 20 years to complete in its totality. He noted about 400,000 residents in the county benefit from the water supply, which reduces stress on the Colorado River and sources from NorthernCalifornia.
Former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said climate change is a massive threat, and the state’s recent severe droughts are cause for concern. Desalinated water, she said, ensures a fresh supply of water for the foundation of human growth.
She also railed against the Trump administration’s denials of the recently released National Climate Assessment, which found climate change is affecting health, safety, quality of life, agriculture and rate of economic growth in a negative manner. Boxer said desalination is a step in the right direction.
“Climate change is real and will bring climate extremes including drought,” she added. “Our water supply is also in jeopardy and this is a solution.”
Sandra Kerl, deputy general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, said the success of the project was due to numerous partners, public and private, working to protect the water supply in San Diego County, which sits at the end of systems from the Colorado River and Northern California, and is the last to receive water.
Due to the plant, she said, the county has been able to avoid mandated state water allocations, which hit the region hard several years ago.
Due to severe drought up to 2017, the state forced drastic cuts in water consumption covering residential and businesses alike.
“Our region has greatly benefitted from this project coming online,” Kerl said. “It’s a stable water supply and we have avoided mandated state water allocations.”