ITEM:              ACTION ITEMS               




Meeting Date:            September 15, 2003                         Budgeted:       N/A


Staff Contact:            Fran Farina                                     Cost Estimate:  N/A


General Counsel Approval:  N/A

Committee Recommendation:  The Water Demand Committee initiated discussion of this issue in September 2002, and requested that the Board provide policy direction.

CEQA Compliance:  N/A


SUMMARY:  The Board will consider a referral from the Water Demand Committee (Exhibit 12-A) to consider issues presented by development proposals dependent on water supplied from private desalination plants, and the cumulative impacts that may result from these plants.  The Board may provide direction to staff.  Action could potentially include providing direction on permit requirements for desalination plants, and/or development of an ordinance to further regulate desalination plants.


RECOMMENDATION:  The Board should review the report of its Water Demand Committee and discuss issues presented by private desalination plants.  The Board should then provide direction to staff as to any further action needed.


BACKGROUND:  Many development projects are constrained by water availability limitations.  A variety of desalination plant proposals have surfaced in recent years, both for private and public projects.  At least one private desalting plant has been built for use at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 


Presently, the District, pursuant to section 363 of its enabling legislation, regulates creation or expansion of any water distribution system.  This includes issues surrounding distribution of potable water and possible impacts on groundwater or other potable water resources from any water system based on desalination for its source of supply. 


Specific concern arises relating to each desalination plant, its unique setting, its planned scope, and the technological processes it proposes to use.  At the same time, each site may affect or impede development of alternate desalination opportunities, and the cumulative impact of multiple plants has not been considered or addressed in a comprehensive forum.  Regional impacts of desalination plants may include, but are not limited to, issues pertaining to salt water collection, brine discharge, electrical requirements, on-site storage, potable water system inter-tie and back-up service, system failure, and fire flow requirements.  Questions may also arise relating to the duplication of potable systems, and rate impacts to existing systems.


The Water Demand Committee considered this topic at its meeting of September 4, 2002 and recommended that the full Board address this issue.  Exhibit 12-A is the letter from the Water Demand Committee dated September 16, 2002 on this topic.  Areas of concern identified by the Committee were as follows:



The Water Demand Committee identified topical areas that needed further information, including issues pertaining to possible desalination system failure, fire flow requirements associated with systems relying on desalted water, and revenue consequences that could result from any loss to Cal-Am’s rate base. 


At the August 18, 2003 meeting, Director Lindstrom highlighted concerns identified in a draft report prepared by the California Coastal Commission.  Director Lindstrom’s comments are proved as Exhibit 12-B.  Excerpts from the Coastal Commission draft report are provided as Exhibit 12-C.  The full report is available at  Exhibit 12-D is summary information, including a list of issues, from an August 2003 statewide Desalination Task Force meeting sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources.  More information is available at





Prepared by David Laredo and Henrietta Stern