The State of California, Department of Water Resources (DWR) officials announced their Proposition 50 desalination grant funding recommendations at a special public workshop held in Sacramento.
The Long Beach Water Department has been selected to receive $3 million for its seawater desalination research and development project, which includes design, construction and subsequent research of its Under Ocean Floor Intake and Discharge Demonstration System, the first of its kind in the world, focused on demonstrating an alternative to traditional open ocean intake and discharge practices.
Local agencies, academic and research institutions, and water agencies are able to use these funds for construction, pilot and demonstration projects, research and development, and feasibility studies to increase new water supplies utilizing desalination.
Funding for desalination projects is available through Proposition 50, the Water Quality, Supply and Safe Drinking Water Projects, Coastal Wetlands Purchase and Protection Act passed by California voters in 2002. Proposition 50 authorized the sale of $3.4 billion in general obligation bonds for a variety of water projects including coastal protection, the CALFED Bay Delta Program and integrated regional water management, among others.
In January 2005, DWR received 42 eligible applications requesting $71.3 million in desalination funding. The DWR is recommending that the available $25 million under the current desalination grant cycle be used to fund 25 projects. Approximately $11.5 million of the available funds will support seawater desalination related projects and $13.5 million will support brackish water desalination projects. Brackish water is a mixture of fresh and salt water, found in estuaries and some groundwater supplies.
"In Long Beach we see desalination as part of a very diverse water supply portfolio, made up of reclaimed water, conservation and conjunctive use projects. A diverse water supply portfolio keeps water supply reliability strong, water quality high and water rates low," stated Helen Z. Hansen, president of the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners and city of Long Beach representative on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board of Directors.
"I believe these funding recommendations not only validate the real potential for seawater desalination along the coast of California, but also the need for a meticulous approach to seawater desalination research and development," stated Kevin L. Wattier, general manager of the Long Beach Water Department. "This money will be spent on optimizing both the energy efficiency and environmental issues currently hindering implementation of full-scale seawater desalination."
High operating costs, due primarily to high rates of power consumption, and environmental issues related to open-ocean intake and discharge have rendered seawater desalination cost/environmentally prohibitive. Although significant advancements in technology have extended membrane life while lowering energy requirements, overall energy consumption remains extremely high due to the very high-pressure requirements of reverse osmosis membranes.
Using a small 9,000 gallon-per-day pilot-scale desalter, the Long Beach Water Department has reduced the overall energy requirement (by 20-30%) of seawater desalination using a relatively low-pressure two staged nano-filtration process, developed by Long Beach Water engineers, known as the "Long Beach Method."
This unique process is now being tested on a larger scale. With funding assistance from the United State Bureau of Reclamation, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and now, the State of California, Long Beach Water will conduct research at a 300,000 gpd prototype-scale desalter incorporating the two-stage nano-filtration process. Construction of this facility will be completed in August 2005. This larger facility is needed to verify the energy savings when employing full-scale membranes and energy recovery units, among other things. The goal is to verify energy savings of the two-stage nano-filtration process and to optimize the process so that it can be duplicated.
Together with its funding partners, Long Beach Water is also undertaking design and construction of an Under Ocean Floor Intake and Discharge Demonstration System, the first of its kind in the world, that will seek to demonstrate that viable, environmentally responsive intake and discharge systems can be developed along the coast of California.
The Long Beach Seawater Desalination Research and Development Project is consistent with the findings and recommendations for seawater desalination of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, California Resources Agency, California Coastal Commission, California Desalination Task Force and the National Marine Sanctuaries at Monterey Bay. The Long Beach Water Department's pursuit of seawater desalination is also an integral component of the Southern California region's long-term water supply plan, included in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.