The largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere started turning sea water into drinking water on Dec. 14, 2015 in Carlsbad, San Diego County.

Poseidon Water’s Carlsbad Desalination Plant is a first for the state and the county. The newly unveiled desalination plant will produce 50 million gallons of water per day after it completes a six-month testing period. For the moment, however, observers are celebrating the culmination of a plan nearly two decades in the making.

The idea of a desalination plant in San Diego County began in 1993 after five consecutive years of drought. Advances in reverse osmosis technology pioneered by General Atomics in Ja Lolla made the idea possible, although environmentalists did everything they could to prevent what they thought would be an ecological disaster for the San Diego Bay.

Five lawsuits were brought against the Carlsbad Desalination Plant by the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper and the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, none of which were successful. The environmental lobby argued that intake pipes and brine discharge would kill marine life.

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Except environmental agencies and the courts disagreed and approved the plant. To offset the environmental impacts of the plant and appease the environmentalists, Poseidon Water created 66 acres of wetlands in the San Diego Bay, added solar panels to the roof of the plant and has pledged to purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon emissions generated by the plant’s construction.

Construction begin in 2012 and drastically overran the initial cost projections made by Poseidon Water. In 2004, Poseidon Water estimated total projects at $250 million. In 2010, that projection ballooned to nearly $700 million. The construction costs were funded by bond sales. In 2012, Fitch Ratings downgraded Poseidon’s debt to its lowest investment grade rating.

At a final estimated cost of $1 billion, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant will provide approximately 50 million gallons of water per day, or 7 percent of San Diego County’s total water usage. The cost of desalinated water will be higher than that of recycled water and reservoir water, but cheaper than importing water from outside the county. As of 2015, San Diego County imports 90 percent of all the water it consumes, much of it from the State Water Project and Colorado River.

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The State Water Project cut allocations for California counties to a near record-low of 10 percent for 2015 late last year. That was a slight improvement over the 5 percent allocation set by the SWP in 2014, a historic low. The 29 public water agencies that receive SWP water asked for more than 4 million acre-feet of water in 2015 and received less than 500,000 acre-feet.

The drought has been good for Poseidon Water. Construction was speed up from a deadline of 2016 to December 2015 in response to continuing dry conditions.

Consumers will pay about an extra $5 per month to pay for water from the plant, a small sacrifice that local water officials say is necessary to diversify the county’s sources of the wet stuff.

San Diego is robust and vibrant community that now has its own permanent and independent supply of fresh water. If you’d like to live in this charming desert oasis, contact one of our agents to start looking for your own luxury home in the shade.

Check out some of our available properties below priced from $5 Million to $10 Million and contact our agents for more information.

  1. 3 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
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  2. 3 beds, 3 full, 1 half baths
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  3. 6 beds, 4 full, 2 half baths
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  4. 7 beds, 7 full, 2 half baths
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(all data current as of 5/29/2017)

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