Carlsbad-based IDE Americas will refurbish, operate and maintain Santa Barbara’s desalination plant.
IDE’s reverse osmosis solution will help Santa Barbara’s Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant efficiently convert seawater to potable water, the company said. It would produce 3,125 acre feet of water per year initially, meeting 26 percent of the city’s water demand. The plant also has the option to expand to 7,500 acre feet per year and IDE plans to provide drinking water by October 2016.
The desalination plant was built during the drought that spanned the late ’80s and early ’90s, shuttering in ’92. The city council succumbed to its “worst-case scenario” when it approved $55 million in July to get the plant up and running. It will cost the city about $4.1 million a year in operating costs at full production.
Lake Cachuma, which the region relies heavily on for its drinking water, is 17 percent full as the state endures the fourth year of a historic drought.
“California’s record-breaking drought is showing no sign of easing up anytime soon. This reinforces the need for a drought-proof solution such as water desalination,” IDE CEO Mark Lambert said in a press release. “With this project in Santa Barbara, we look forward to increasing the reliability of the region’s water supply and expanding our footprint in the U.S. desalination market.”
When the desalination plant was put into long-term storage, a portion of the membrane treatment equipment was sold to recuperate permitting costs and reduce long-term maintenance spending that fell on rate payers. The city plans to minimally operate and maintain the facility after the drought this time around.
The salty brine water that results from desalination will be discharged into an ocean outfall that is shared with the El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant. It does not pose significant impacts on the environment, the city said.
“During a time of shrinking surface and groundwater supplies, the Santa Barbara desalination plant represents an alternative way to help meet the region’s rising need for potable water,” Robert Roebuck, project manager for Santa Barbara’s public works department, said in a news release.
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