New plant tests US appetite for seawater desalination

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — There's far more riding on the Americas' largest seawater desalination plant than the 50 million gallons of drinking water it will produce for the San Diego area each day.

The plant, which opens this year, will help determine the future of seawater desalination in the U.S. The billion-dollar project is only the nation's second major seawater plant. The first U.S. foray in Tampa Bay is widely considered a flop.

Supporters consider seawater desalination a partial answer to drought in the U.S. Opponents say high costs and threats to marine life leave better alternatives, like recycling and conservation.

San Diego County Water Authority officials vowed to "Tampa-proof" their effort, tapping experienced builders and getting developer Poseidon Resources LLC to shoulder much of the risk.

Carlsbad is already off to a better start than Tampa: Initially expected to open next year, it is well ahead of schedule.