Water Authority Wins $19.4 Million Federal Grant for Desal Plant Intake

June 14, 2024

The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded the San Diego County Water Authority $19.4 million for permanent upgrades to the seawater intake at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Securing federal funding is part of the Water Authority’s long-term strategy. Maintaining critical infrastructure ensures the continued delivery of safe and reliable water supplies while minimizing the financial impact to our ratepayers.”

Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz

In total, Interior announced $142 million in grants for large-scale water recycling and desalination projects that will create additional water supply, increasing resilience and water security across the West. Another local project – the City of Oceanside’s Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facility Well Expansion and Brine Minimization – was awarded $5.3 million.


“We must use every tool that works to develop water sources that build resiliency throughout the West,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “This funding through Reclamation’s water recycling and desalination construction programs enables partners to develop new water supplies through treatment of water that can be a part of the water supply portfolio.”


U.S. Rep. Mike Levin praised the $32.2 million in federal funding for three critical water desalination projects in north San Diego County and south Orange County. “I am thrilled that our region will receive this critical funding to support our water infrastructure,” said Levin. “In the face of threats from climate change, these projects are essential for ensuring a sustainable and resilient water supply for our communities. By investing in innovative solutions like groundwater purification and desalination, we are taking significant steps toward protecting our water resources for future generations.”

The Carlsbad desal project will enhance current operations by improving the existing seawater intake system to secure local reliable water supply for the region. The plant’s original intake structure that supported power generation is being decommissioned, and intake upgrades will support permanent stand-alone operation at the plant.

Construction on the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant water intakes began in 2023.


Federal funds will be used to modify the initial intake and discharge operations, along with construction of a new screening structure to protect sea life. The project will provide for environmental enhancements and continue to reduce the region’s demand for imported water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta and the Colorado River.


The Carlsbad desalination plant started operations in December 2015 and has produced well over 100 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water for the region. It is an important piece of the San Diego region’s long-term investment in sustainable water supplies. Due to that investment and others, the region has sufficient water for 2024 and the foreseeable future.

  • The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $268 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 23 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

    Media Contact Information

    Grace Sevilla

    Phone: (619) 855-5135

    Email: GSevilla@sdcwa.org