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The Poseidon Water desalination plant in Carlsbad is expected to come online next week after 15 years of planning, permitting and construction. Photo courtesy Poseidon Water
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Final testing phase underway for desal plant

CARLSBAD — The final testing phase is underway as Poseidon Water’s crown jewel prepares to officially open next week.

The company’s state-of-the-art, $1 billion desalination plant began final preparations on Nov. 9, according to Poseidon Community Outreach Manager Jessica Jones.

Poseidon obtained its drinking water permit from the state and launched into a 30-day testing cycle to prove the facility’s functionality.

On Monday, the plant will host about 600 elected officials, project supporters, community members and media for the christening.

“This is to celebrate the plant coming online and dedicate the plant,” Jones said. “It’s an accumulation of over 15 years of work. The project went through an extensive development and permitting process over the years. For this project to come to fruition, it’s exciting for everyone.”

Located at the south end of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and adjacent to the Encinas Power Station, the desalination plant will be the largest one in the country, Jones said. The second largest is located in Tampa, Fla., and only has half the output, she added.

“It’s the only water supply in San Diego County that’s not dependent on snowpack or rainfall,” Jones said. “It’s the only new, local water supply. San Diego County imports about 85 percent of its water.”

The Carlsbad plant will provide 50 millions gallons per day, serve 300,000 people and provide the county approximately 10 percent of its total water supply.

In addition, Jones said the facility will be the first with a net carbon footprint of zero. IDE Technologies, an Israel-based leader in desalination plants, engineered the plant’s design and ability.

“They are really the experts in the field,” Jones said. “We are using the latest technology in the plant. We were able to install 10 percent fewer membranes to get the same output. We have the potential to add those membranes and get more output from the plant.”

Poseidon has lined the roof with solar panels, installed energy recovery devices within the plant, purchased $1 million worth of trees and other carbon offsets.

“This will be the first water infrastructure project in the state of California that will have a net carbon footprint of zero,” Jones said.

The plant will be able to recover 40 percent of energy due to releasing saltwater back into the sea.

Pressurized water is pushed through membranes, with 50 percent of the discharge running through the devices, Jones added.

“That is used to desalinate the next batch of water coming through the plant,” she said.

As for the testing, Jones said the plant has operated all aspects of its function and is expected to officially enter treated seawater into the drinking supply.

During the past six months, however, each component of the plant was tested as well as the delivery and reverse osmosis systems.

Since Nov. 9, Jones said the recent permit obtained allowed facility to test the water quality.

“When that test is done at the end of the 30 days, the plant will be deemed commercially operational,” Jones explained. “As part of the testing, they have to ramp up the pumps and ramp down the pumps. We have to simulate different situations. Everything has been going really well.”