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Landmark Project Approved
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on November 29th 2012 voted to approve a landmark agreement to purchase up to 56,000 acre-feet of water annually from what will be the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif. The plant is expected to start producing up to 50 millions gallons a day in 2016.
The Board also approved a 30 year Water Purchase Agreement with project developer Poseidon Resources. The reverse-osmosis facility will make local water supplies more reliable by reducing the region’s dependence on water from the Colorado River and the Bay-Delta that is vulnerable to droughts, natural disasters and regulatory restrictions.
The Water Purchase Agreement protects Water Authority ratepayers by assigning development and operations risks to Poseidon. The Water Authority will not have to make payments to Poseidon until the company produces water that meets predetermined quantity and quality standards. In addition Poseidon is responsible for all cost overruns during construction.
The cost of desal water is projected to start between $1,950 and $2,150 per acre foot (in 2012 dollars) initially more expensive than current supplies, but expected to match the imported water price by the mid 2020’s.
As construction gets underway a comprehensive cost of service study to determine precisely how expenses related to desalinated water will be split among the Water Authority’s rates and charges and what each agency will pay. Rate payers can expect to spend $5 to $7 more a month to pay for the new supplies from the sea – though costs will vary by member agency.
Other programs that have assisted in this long-term strategy include: relining the All-American Canal, raising the San Vicente Reservoir, ag-to-urban water transfers from Imperial Irrigation District to San Diego, and massive conservations efforts that have resulted in San Diego currently using 37 percent less water per person than in the 1990’s.