Santa Fe Irrigation District tapping into new water source


The Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID), which provides water to residents in Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach, is one of eight local water districts that have contracted with the yet-to-be-built Carlsbad Desalination Project to supplement its imported water supply.

Once completed, the plant will supply a fifth of the amount that the district previously imported.

The Desalination Partners, as they call themselves, include the Carlsbad, Valley Center, Rincon del Diablo, Rainbow, Vallecitos and Olivenhain Municipal Waters District and the Sweetwater Authority. SFID joined the collaboration in September 2007.

“Water is a commodity in California,” said SFID general manager Michael Bardin. “Our water supply is coming under increasing constraints. We have to find some new sources of water.

“Our board had to take a leadership role and say, ‘We think desalination is part of the future of water resources in California and we’re going to be a part of it.’”

The Carlsbad Desalination Project, which began development in 1998, has four primary objectives: to provide a local source of potable water to supplement imported water supplies, to improve the reliability of the local water supply, to improve water quality, and to complement regional water conservation and recycling programs.

Designed to process 50 million gallons of seawater each day, many of the facility’s components take advantage of existing infrastructure. Its proposed location is adjacent to the existing Encina power plant to access the required energy.

“The reason it’s located there is because the power plant already has ocean intakes,” explained Bardin. “The jetties already draw in water to cool the power plant and then discharge it out.”

Additionally, the plant would use the two main aqueducts that supply water to San Diego County as its primary means of water delivery.

Poseidon Resources is the privately funded corporation leading the public works project, creating what Bardin called a “unique public/private partnership.”

“We’re working together to support the project and make it happen,” he said, adding that the San Diego legislative contingent is also in support of the desal plant.

A letter dated July 19, 2007 from the California Legislature to the California Coastal Commission stated: “Drought conditions and the environmental impacts of climate change coupled with looming legal constraints placed on the Colorado River mandate a strategy to diversify San Diego’s water portfolio. Desalination is just one part of the solution, but it’s a critical part that must be pursued. To this end, we cannot afford further delays on this critical water infrastructure project.”

The California Coastal Commission will be meeting Aug. 6 – 8 to vote on the Marina Life Mitigation Plan and the Energy Minimization and Green House Gas Reduction Plan permits. Community support at this meeting is vital, Bardin said.

Once the permitting process is completed, construction will begin. The plant is expected to be operational by 2010.

“From a water resource management (perspective), there’s no silver bullet,” Bardin said. “It’s not like by doing desalination we’ve solved the water crisis in California. We have to do conservation; we have to use the water we have as wisely as we can. We have to recycle water … and we have to look for new supplies. Desalination, when you live next to the ocean, is the logical place.”

To learn more about the Carlsbad Desalination Project, go to