Technology FAQ'S

Currently, West Basin Municipal Water District relies on imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River for two-thirds of coastal Los Angeles County’s water. Recent events, like court-ordered restrictions, drought, climate change and population growth have made that supply of water less reliable. West Basin is committed to providing a reliable source of water to all residents in coastal Los Angeles County; therefore West Basin has developed the Water Reliability 2020 Program. Water Reliability 2020 will increase local supplies of water and reduce the area’s dependence on the less-reliable sources of imported water to just one-third by 2020. This program involves exploring ocean-water desalination, in conjunction with increased conservation and water recycling efforts.

No, membrane technologies have been used for years to purify water. More recently the membrane technologies of microfiltration and reverse osmosis have been used instead of distillation because these processes save both energy and money.

West basin has been successfully purifying ocean water to drinking water standards for over six years at a pilot facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. The ocean-water purification process will include microfiltration and reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis is the same technology used to make bottled water and will meet or be better than all drinking water standards. West Basin has 17 years of experience with reverse osmosis technology, and has desalted more water than any other water agency in California.

How will this project differ from the one in Tampa and are you sure you won’t encounter the same kinds of problems they did?

We are confident from our six years of pilot testing that we can provide very high quality drinking water from ocean-water desalination. You would have to ask the officials in Tampa Bay about the specifics of their project.

That has not been determined yet. West Basin is currently negotiating for a location in El Segundo at the NRG Energy, Inc. power plant. If those negotiations are unsuccessful, other locations will be explored.

No, ocean water desalination plants today do not need to be next to or co-located with power plants. More and more power plants are going to air cooling systems so it there no benefit to co-locate an ocean water desalination purification plant with a power plant.

It would be very expensive to purify the salt removed from the desalination process. In addition, it is better to dilute the concentrated salt water and return it to the ocean.

That depends on a number of factors including the amount of water produced. If we build a 20 million gallon a day ocean desalination project, the water would essentially remain in the West Basin area along the coast and blend with imported water.

The desalted ocean water will be put directly into the existing imported water or drinking water distribution system.

There are various degrees of salty water depending on how the water got salt. For example, wastewater has about 1,000 milligrams per liter of minerals or salts. Ocean water, however, has 35,000 milligrams per liter of salts or minerals. Different sources of water have different levels of salts. Desalting is taking the minerals and other constituents out of the salty water to make the water good enough to drink and it can be done with membrane technology very effectively.

Current plans are that the ocean-water desalination facility will be producing drinking-quality water no later than 2020. In that year, the water will be distributed to homes as soon as the water tested and the water meets all drinking water standards.

Ocean water desalination is nothing new, countries have been desalting ocean water since the 16th Century. Ocean water is used all over the world in 130 countries. It is used in Catalina when needed, and on cruise vessels and other ocean going ships. There are over 5,000 ocean water desalination plants of all sizes throughout the world with the largest facility in Saudi Arabia producing 232 million gallons of fresh water a day.

We are looking at two possible locations, the NRG Power Plant in El Segundo, and secondarily the AES power plant in Redondo Beach. At this time the NRG Power Plant is our primary focus.

Yes, that will be part of the EIR study. We do not believe there will be significant impacts. A modern ocean water desal plant will look much like the buildings of a business park, modern and noiseless. There is a new desal plant built in Orange County across the street from residences with no impact on the neighborhood.

A 20 million gallon a day plant would need about eight acres. A 60 MGD plant not quite double, but the EIR will answer these questions more precisely. The building housing the reverse osmosis will be two stories high and generally look like a new office building.

The water would be put into the regular drinking water distribution system pipes.

Reverse osmosis pumps do make some noise, but they will be inside a building and cannot be heard from outside.

We believe so, although we have not completed all of our operations and research. However, I can tell you our environmental protection research is very successful. We will be protecting 100% of the adult fish, young fish and larvae who are mature enough to reproduce. The purified water will meet or be better than all drinking water standards. We continue to test efficient operations and energy reduction devises. What we have learned at the demo will save many millions of dollars if and when we build a full scale desal facility, it was well worth the investment of $10 million dollars.

No, the proposed facility will be built to stringent earthquake requirements.

Absolutely, it will meet or be better than all drinking water standards. If you have been on a cruise ship, Navy ship or at a resort in an arid region, you have probably already had desalted ocean water. If not come to our ocean water desal demonstration facility at Sealab in Redondo Beach and taste the water. It is very high quality water.

No, reverse osmosis removes all these constituents. Anyone who says that these chemicals are in ocean water that has been purified by reverse osmosis is trying to scare people.

Absolutely not. Noise is captured by the building that houses the RO and there are is no pollution from the enclosed system of membrane filters, pipes and pumps. A similar desal plant is located in Orange County across the street from a local neighborhood.

Yes, but they did not use the same system that is being proposed by West Basin. We have been testing ocean water desal for almost a decade and using this full scale desal demo plant for more than a year. We know our process will work.

Thousands of visitors to our desal demonstration facility have tasted the desal water and tap water for a taste comparison. Some cannot tell the difference, but most can taste a difference and prefer the taste of the desalted ocean water.

The desal water will be put into the regular drinking water system. When the plant is sited will determine exactly where, but generally the water will go into local drinking water pipes in West Basin’s service area.

The Board has not decided to build a desal plant yet. That is why we are gathering information through the EIR. However, if the decision is made to go ahead, the plant to be online by 2023.

West Basin will get approvals and permits from numerous over site agencies, including the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Coastal Commission, the California Department of Health Services, the State Lands Commission, and a few others. These agencies require continual monitoring for water quality and can revoke their approvals if the project does not function safely and to specifications.

Unfortunately not, the amount of mineral materials is too small to justify the expense of processing them.

Since there have been California desal plants that started and then were taken apart in the past, will this plant end up not being needed in the future.

In the past, there were alternatives that became available. We do not for see that occurring in the future. Just the opposite, water is becoming scarcer. Additionally, today desal has become much more comparable to other new water supplies. If this plant is built, it will be online all the time as an additional diversification of our normal water supplies.

That decision has not been made. We are currently doing an environmental impact report that will look at both 20 and 60 MDG alternatives. If we were to 60 MDG plant we would need to partner, we would probably look to Met as that partner.