Doheny desalination plant approved for land lease
DANA POINT, Calif. — The California State Lands Commission granted a 20-year land lease in Dana Point to be the future site of the Doheny desalination plant. The South Coast Water District (SCWD) will build a $140 million plant to turn five million gallons of oceanwater into reliable drinking water each day, regardless of Southern California droughts. The project could be scaled up in the future to process 15 million gallons of seawater a day.
The Doheny project will serve residents who currently rely on expensive water imports from the Colorado River or State Water Project. It will be the first commercial-scale desalination project to use slant wells designed to collect ocean water from beneath the seafloor to prevent marine life from getting trapped in pipelines. The seawater will be routed to a treatment plant to be built on a 10-acre site owned by the SCWD Southern California Water District. Water intake will be several hundred feet from shore in a territory managed by the State Lands Commission. The lease gives the water district permission to build up to five slant wells along underwater land.
The water district’s lease has several conditions of approval. The district must consult with tribes that have an interest in the area before starting construction and report back to the commission. The district will have to study how the plant will impact low-income ratepayers and try to reduce impact. The district will have to plan to offset the plant’s significant greenhouse gas emissions and power usage. The water district plans to use solar panels and possibly hydrogen fuel cells to offset the large energy demand of the desalination plant, and it will likely need to purchase carbon offset credits to make the plant carbon neutral.
Honoring the conditions of approval is necessary to secure the construction contract which may be awarded in late 2023. The Doheny project could start contributing to water supply in 2027.