Carlsbad Desalination Plant Opens

Officials gathered near San Diego Monday to dedicate the largest desalination plant in the U.S.

The $1 billion plant is located in Carlsbad, approximately 35 miles north of downtown along the Interstate 5 corridor.

Three years after construction began, the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant will produce 50 million gallons of potable water daily and pump it 10 miles to San Marcos to the San Diego County Water Authority.

Because of the high cost of desalination, San Diego County customers will likely see an increase in their water bills.

The plant has been 14 years in the making. The first steps toward construction were taken in 2001.

Known as the Carlsbad Desalination Project, it was renamed Monday in honor of former Carlsbad mayor Claude “Bud” Lewis.

Not everyone supports the plant and others planned for areas like Camp Pendleton and Huntington Beach. The Surfrider Foundation argues desalination is not the solution for the statewide drought.

“The Pacific is not a limitless resource,” San Diego Chapter manager Mandy Sackett said in a written release.

“Desalination may be part of the solution eventually, but it needs to be sized and located appropriately. It should be the last tool in the tool box, not the first,” Sackett continued.

The process itself takes approximately 20 minutes from beginning to end, according to the project's website. 

First, the saltwater is pretreated to remove algae and other organic materials. Then the water moves through microfiltration to remove microscopic impurities.

To remove the salt from the seawater, the plant will strain the water through a reverse osmosis process. Under intense pressure the water is moved through semi-permeable membranes.

Finally, some minerals are returned to the water that’s treated with chlorine.

Carlsbad Desalination Plant in Images

NBC 7's Matt Rascon takes you inside the desalination plant today on NBC 7 News at 4, 5, and 6.

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