Following the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) release of a draft Final Desalination amendment to address some elements of the California drought, Assemblymember Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) made the following statement regarding the matter.
Scheduled for a vote on May 5, the amendment would effectively determine the future of desalination projects as an alternative source of water in California.
Desalination is method which geared toward improving water supply reliability and self-reliance at the local and regional levels; it is the process of removing dissolved minerals to produce freshwater to be used for municipal needs, like drinking water and for industrial uses. Coastal communities in particular are looking to use such methods now as a means of more reliable supply, acting as buffer.
Currently, there are several large desalination facilities being planned and considered, particularly along the California coast to increase water supplies. Notably, some very small desalination facilities are already in operation, though many operate intermittently.
“I will be carefully analyzing the amendments proposed by the Water Board today because this next phase of developing a regulatory process for desalination will prove to be critical to the future of our state,” said Olsen.
Olsen stated that the Board’s action would determine whether desalination could potentially act as a more readily available water source for communities across the State.
The Board is currently considering an amendment to its Water Quality Control Plan for Ocean Waters that would address desalination facilities, the Ocean Plan. Presently, permits for desalination facilities are reviewed and approved individually by regional water quality control boards.
The amendment is intended to provide consistency to the permitting process throughout the state, and provide guidance for regional boards evaluating new or expanded facilities. Additionally, the amendment is purposed to address specific implementation, monitoring and reporting objectives and requirements.
This amendment also takes into consideration benefits of desalination, weighing them against the potential harm to marine life as there is the risk that some species would die in the construction process of surface and subsurface water intakes.
“I'm urging the Board to do everything it can to ensure that desalination projects can get off the ground quickly and efficiently so that our economy can grow and Californians can access a reliable source of water now and in the future,” said Olsen.
The SWRBC is scheduled to vote on the plan at a public hearing on May 5, 2015. A public notice for the meeting can be found here:
A fact sheet for the draft amendments can be found here: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/publications_forms/publications/factsheets/docs/desal_fs.pdf