Desalination, the removal of salts from saline waters, is one of the few options available to augment California’s water supply. California has facilities that desalinate sea water for coastal communities and brackish groundwater for inland water users — many of which have provided high-quality water to their customers for more than 10 years. As water supplies in California become more constrained, many water suppliers with nearby saline water sources are evaluating desalination as a way to provide reliable supply in response to uncertainties relating to future drought and climate change.
While desalination is not a viable method for many water suppliers in the state, some not yet engaged in the process could realize significant supply and reliability benefits — even though desalination of both sea water and brackish groundwater comes with financial and environmental challenges. For water suppliers with desalination opportunities, how they implement environmentally sustainable projects is a key issue facing multiple California communities.