Giant desal plant planned for Camp Pendleton

camp.pendletonThe dramatic announcement by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month of a 25 percent cut in water use across much of California triggered harsh commentary in the state and across the nation over the lack of preparation by government agencies and water districts for a long-term drought. A typical focus was incredulity over a dry coastal state’s failure to embrace desalination plants, as has been done in Israel, Saudi Arabia and other arid coastal nations.

But almost none of the coverage has reflected the fact that formal, official planning has been going on for years for one of the world’s largest desal plants along the coast of the Camp Pendleton Marine base in north San Diego County. Any construction is years off, but necessary preparatory work is well under way.

The image above of a proposed desal plant there comes from a 2010 presentation by the San Diego County Water Authority. It shows how sky-high water planners are on the potential of the 17-mile Camp Pendleton coast. Attention is now focused on a site in the southwest corner of the 125,000-acre base, just north of Oceanside and about 20 miles north of the Carlsbad desalination plant that is scheduled to open in coming months.

The Carlsbad plant will be the biggest in the Western Hemisphere and is expected to produce 50 million gallons of water a day — 7 percent of the San Diego region’s needed supply.

The Camp Pendleton project would be far bigger, with desalination experts saying 150 million gallons of water a day is realistic. That would make it one of the largest desal plants in the world.

A Saudi Arabian desalination plant will produce 264 million gallons a day when its first phase is complete, Bloomberg News reports.

A 2009 San Diego County Water Authority report didn’t take it for granted that the Pendleton project’s supplies are needed. It spoke of only expanding the project to the full 150 million gallons a day “as supply and demand conditions warranted.”

After four years of drought, there’s not much doubt that California needs far more reliable water sources — especially in the San Diego region, given that local water officials have spent 20-plus years fighting with the giant Metropolitan Water District over supply and costs.

The water mega-wholesaler has long opposed San Diego’s efforts to diversify its water supply by partnering with Poseidon, a private company, to build the Carlsbad plant and by striking a deal to shift Colorado River water from agricultural uses in Imperial County to supplies for homes and businesses in San Diego County.


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  1. Roberta
    Roberta 26 April, 2015, 15:50

    What is wrong with the system? We’ve had 5 years to begin the process & yet where are we now? This is sounding like the boondoggle of repair of Bay Bridge in SF Bay Area. We can live without fast speed trains, but we cannot live without WATER.

    Reply this comment
    • Wolfman
      Wolfman 26 April, 2015, 18:46

      illegal aliens also use a lot of water

      Reply this comment
      • Tesla_x
        Tesla_x 26 April, 2015, 22:36

        “Environmental Diversions” use the lions share of the state’s water supplies, but the ECO SPIN machine just loves to demonize their favorite targets: residential users, farmers, nut farmers, dairies, meat processors, Mexicans, oil companies, etc.

        Basically, anyone hated by the sierra club, the center for biological diversity,, the NRDC, the Packard foundation, greenpeace, or other left wing NGOs, have been blaming everyone else for this drought becoming worse.

        The sad facts are that ECO-Diversions use 1.4 TRILLION gal/yr, or 100 gal/day, for every man/woman/child in California, all~38M of us

        Reference the Eco-diversion number in this recent Wsj article:

        “Environmental diversions consume 4.4 million acre feet per year”

        Now go here:

        That 4.4 million acres a year is really 1.4 TRILLION gallons per year going to things like restarting dry rivers, protecting the SMELT, etc, basically ‘Eco-terraforming experiments.’
        Failing ones at that, which are going against decades long natural ocean cycles.

        Some older research on this specific topic here:

        Instead of trying to fight Mother Nature, we should be saving those trillions of gallons for city water supplies, farming, and the groundwater recharge that goes hand in hand with that water working its way south into the Central Valley.

        Remember: water to farmers also by default recharges the water table near many of the valley rivers and towns whose wells are now going dry.

        The Eco spin machine won’t tell you that either.

        Restarting a river up north for an Eco-experiment steals water from rivers further south, and from those who need it NOW.

        Reply this comment
  2. Queeg
    Queeg 27 April, 2015, 20:53

    Interesting but irrelevant!

    The water rate increases will funnel into pensions and choo choo’s

    Be thirsty my friend!

    Reply this comment
  3. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 27 April, 2015, 21:52

    The orthodox environmental community in San Diego closed ranks around the idea that desal was going to destroy the ‘precious marine environment’, and then bled themselves white fighting the Poseidon plant in court. The fact that the real agenda had nothing to do with prtecting the environment was proven by the way they kept pivoting in their arguments against the plant: first it was the fish larvae, then it was the saline effluent, then it was the temperature of the effluent, etc etc. As each point was shot down they came up with another ‘crucial’ problem. The real agenda was simple: power, control, shutting down economic growth.

    Reply this comment
    • Queeg
      Queeg 1 May, 2015, 23:38

      Me thinks enviro reviews can be minimal and pragmatic and timely on federal land.

      Hope so.

      Reply this comment
  4. vintage
    vintage 6 September, 2017, 13:23

    Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely fantastic.

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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