Orange County Branch Newsletter

November 2014

ASCE OC YMF

Carlsbad Desalination Plan Presentation


By: Eric Walker

It seems water has always been a fiercely contested subject and with the west coast in one of the direst droughts in years the issue of access to clean water is once again in the forefront of the public’s attention. While many people are looking towards ways to conserve water, reduce the amount people use, and regulate more heavily the way water is used there are those few who ask, why not make more?

People like Joe Lauria of MWH Global (Formerly of ARCADIS) are looking towards helping give California a future in water by looking to the largest source of water on the planet, the ocean. Desalination has been gaining prominence over the past few years as water becomes more and more scarce but there are still many barriers to overcome, especially here in California. Despite the almost overwhelming setbacks, challenges, hurdles, hoops, and negotiations one project managed to eke through into construction, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

The plant includes two major components, a 54 million gallon per day desalination facility and a 10 mile conveyance pipeline. Either project alone would be an engineering feat but together they make for a real permitting, coordination, engineering, and construction challenge. The funding for the project is coming from bonds owned primarily by JP Morgan and private equity from Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners. This split managed to raise the estimated $992 million dollars to design and build the two facilities.

The Arcadis engineering team is working for the client Poseidon Resources LLC and with Kiewit partnered with Shea Construction for contractor services. The contracts were laid out in 2008 and the project is currently under construction so all in all the process was rather quick. This of course is not taking into account all of the legal, environmental, and other work that had been occurring for decades prior to contractors being selected. The whole process really demonstrates a steadfast determination on the part of Poseidon Resources LLC and as a result this may be the only desalination plant we see for quite some time.

One unique aspect of the design for this project is the international team it has brought together. Large scale desalination is not something the United States is particularly known for (at least not yet) so Poseidon looked to other regions of the world for help in process design and operation. This resulted in firms from Israel, Israeli Desalination enterprises, and Australia, Sinclair Knight Merz, coming on board. Partnering with these world renowned firms in the area of desalination allowed the Poseidon team to ensure a world class project.

Joe Lauria’s presentation provided a unique glimpse into the process, challenges, and triumphs of a large scale project and one that is not only extremely relevant to our current water crisis in California but is also right down the highway. The pertinence could not be higher and we are so fortunate that Mr. Lauria was able to come present on such a fascinating project.

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