Desalination still on back burner for Marin after votes

Not coming to a tap near you soon: desalinated water. 

Despite voters’ approval this month of Marin Municipal Water District incumbent candidates who supported studying desalination, and a ballot measure to allow that study to happen, the reality of taking bay water and de-salting it for domestic use in Marin remains murky. 

“What we said from the beginning of the campaign is that desalination is not on the table because of current demand patterns,” said David Behar, the water board president who won reelection. “That has not changed.”

In April the water board voted to suspend further investigation of a desalination plant until it can get a better handle on declining water demand. 

Water usage in the county continues to stay low: it has dropped 15 percent in the past two years. An extended rainy season, combined with conservation, have helped lessen the demand.

The struggling economy also means less office space is being used and fewer homes are occupied, which has led to a high number of water accounts that show zero water use.

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Oceanside hopes to produce more of its own water thru desalination

Plans to make Oceanside less dependent on costly imported water by expanding the city’s desalination program have taken on a new urgency as city officials warn of ongoing water-rate increases. 

A consultant hired by the city three years ago has completed a report recommending that Oceanside proceed with the next step toward expanding its desalination operations with a goal of providing up to half of the city’s water needs from local sources, said water utilities director Cari Dale. 

“The importance of local supplies is going to be thrust into the forefront,” Dale said. 

The City Council earlier this month put off making a decision on a proposal that would raise combined water and sewer rates for a typical homeowner from $96.30 a month to $104.14 starting in early 2011 and to $112.38 a month in July. The council will reconsider the increases Dec. 8. 

Meanwhile, water officials said more increases are likely to follow because the Metropolitan Water District is raising the price of the water it sells the San Diego Water Authority, the regional agency that in turn sells water to Oceanside and other cities and water agencies.

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Binational desalination plans heat up

Officials considering whether to build four desalination plants between Rosarito Beach and Ensenada

With scarce rainfall and increasing competition for water from the Colorado River, Baja California faces many of the same challenges as Southern California as it strives to meet the needs of a swelling population.

Now water managers are considering whether to build four desalination plants along the Pacific Ocean corridor that spans Rosarito Beach to Ensenada. Two of the proposals are binational ventures — one private, the other public — that would pipe a portion of the processed seawater to users in San Diego County.

The private project has been moving forward quickly in recent months as developers explore the possibility of a reverse-osmosis facility in Rosarito Beach with an initial capacity of 50 million gallons daily. That would be as large as the Poseidon plant scheduled for operations in Carlsbad.

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