Water Authority and city of Carlsbad release agreement on seawater desalination project

April 20, 2005

After several months of negotiations, staff from the city of Carlsbad and the San Diego County Water Authority have reached…

After several months of negotiations, staff from the city of Carlsbad and the San Diego County Water Authority have reached a proposed interagency agreement on the development of a regional seawater desalination facility. The facility, to be located at the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad, would provide a new, drought-proof source of water to the region, producing up to 80-million gallons per day of treated water (up to 90,000 acre-feet annually).

“To improve the reliability of the region’s water supply, it is critical that we develop new local sources of water,” said Maureen Stapleton, Water Authority general manager. “The Water Authority is committed to ensuring that one or more seawater desalination projects are built in San Diego County, providing up to 15 percent of our region’s water supply by 2020.”

“Carlsbad is committed to helping assure the availability of water to a growing customer base throughout the county while protecting our residents’ interests,” said Jim Elliott, director of administrative services for Carlsbad. “This agreement respects the long-term land use planning goals of Carlsbad while meeting the region’s goals of increased water reliability.”

The proposed agreement requires approval by the Carlsbad city council, the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, and the Carlsbad Housing and Redevelopment Commission. The members of the Carlsbad city council comprise the governing boards of these agencies. Carlsbad will consider the agreement on April 20. If approved by Carlsbad, the Water Authority board of directors will consider the agreement on April 28.

The agreement between the Water Authority general manager and the Carlsbad city manager addresses water supply and land use concerns of both parties. The agreement will allow both agencies to move forward as partners, on a fair-share cost basis, in the development of seawater desalination at Encina as both a regional supply for the Water Authority and a local water supply for Carlsbad.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Water Authority that gives voice to our population’s needs, desires and vision,” said Elliott.

“This agreement represents a significant milestone in making seawater desalination a reality in San Diego County,” said Stapleton. “This is an important project for the region and a partnership between the Water Authority and Carlsbad is the best way to achieve improved water reliability for all of San Diego County.

“The Water Authority is committed to developing a quality regional project at a fair price that fits into Carlsbad’s long-term vision,” she said.

The Water Authority began studying the possibility of a seawater desalination project at the Encina Power Station in 1991. In the last few years, the Water Authority has been conducting detailed engineering and environmental studies to determine the feasibility of a large scale project that would serve all of San Diego County. Since 2001, Carlsbad has worked with a private developer, Poseidon Resources of Stamford, Conn., on a water-purchase agreement to provide a local water supply to its residents from a proposed privately owned and operated seawater desalination plant located on a portion of the Encina Power Station. The agreement between the Water Authority and Carlsbad focuses on a single regional project that will allow delivery of desalinated seawater by the Water Authority throughout San Diego County and provide a local supply for Carlsbad.

The proposed agreement provides specific, negotiated terms and conditions for the development of a regional project at the Encina site. Both agencies will work in close coordination in the preparation of the Water Authority’s environmental impact report and facility plans for the regional project. Carlsbad will purchase up to 5,000 acre-feet of desalinated water per year. Carlsbad will pay the Water Authority’s full cost to produce desalinated water and the estimated cost of delivering the desalinated water to Carlsbad’s local distribution system. Any grant funding received through the Metropolitan Water District or any state and federal funding source for the project, will be shared proportionally.

The future facility is sited in a key coastal redevelopment area in Carlsbad. The proposed agreement addresses the city’s long-term vision to increase and enhance coastal access along its central core. It includes approximately $21 million in improvements to the South Carlsbad Coastal Redevelopment Area that will mitigate for project impacts near the plant, enhance visitor and resident coastal access, provide recreational opportunities and improve traffic circulation in the coastal area.

The agreement ensures that the public interest is best served by implementing a regional project that uses competitive public procurement processes for the construction of a seawater desalination plant and that project specifications, construction inspection and project approvals are performed by the Water Authority to ensure quality control.

Once both governing boards approve the agreement the Water Authority will engage Poseidon Resources and Cabrillo Power 1, LLC in negotiations regarding their roles in the development of the regional seawater desalination plant. Cabrillo is the site host and owner of the Encina Power Station. Poseidon is proposing development of a privately owned and operated seawater desalination project and is the leaseholder on a potential site for desalination facilities at the Encina Power Station.


  • 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