Oct 27, 2003

DWR Submits Water Desalination Findings and Recommendations

The California Department of Water Resources is distributing the key findings and recommendations based on input and advice from the Water Desalination Task Force.

Assembly Bill 2717 (Hertzberg) directed the Department to convene a Water Desalination Task Force to advise the Department on the opportunities and potential impediments associated with desalination and what role, if any, the State should take in furthering desalination. The Task Force, which deliberated for five months, was comprised of representatives of 27 organizations including state, local and federal agencies, water districts and environmental groups, among others.

A primary finding of the Department is that economically and environmentally acceptable desalination should be considered as part of a balanced water supply portfolio to help meet California's existing and future water supply and environmental needs. This is linked to one of the major recommendations: that desalination facilities should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis given locally based water supply and reliability needs, environmental considerations, project objectives and planning issues.

Other major findings include that brine disposal from ocean desalination can be effectively managed. However, the entrainment of marine organisms by seawater intakes can be a larger issue. For desalination of brackish groundwater, brine disposal is the major issue, and energy use for currently proposed desalination projects would use less than 1/2 of one-percent of the state's existing energy generating capacity.

In addition, it is recommended that greater attention be given to siting issues associated with desalination facilities; stronger links be developed between approved General Plans and local water supply options such as desalination; and coordination be improved among permitting and regulatory agencies.

The Department looked at the opportunities and impediments associated with various desalination processes, including those of seawater, estuarine and brackish groundwater desalination. Although much of the renewed focus on desalination has been associated with seawater, currently there is a much larger amount of brackish groundwater being desalinated in California. Over time, however, this trend is likely to shift toward greater use of seawater given the inexhaustible supply and assuming the economic and environmental issues identified by the Task Force process can be adequately addressed.

For more information on the Water Desalination Task Force, including a copy of the Findings and Recommendations, visit the Desalination web site at www.owue.water.ca.gov/recycle/desal/desal.cfm