Chris Stiedemann of Poseidon Water looks over the giant filers that remove microscopic impurities from the seawater. Photo by Chris Jennewein
An engineer looks over the giant filers that remove microscopic impurities from the seawater at the Carlsbad desalination plant. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The millions of gallons of water produced daily by the new Carlsbad desalination plant may soon ease the mandatory restrictions on water use in San Diego County.

Changes to the California’s emergency drought regulations adopted last week by the California Water Resources Control Board provide a mechanism for the San Diego region to count supplies from the Carlsbad plant, which started commercial production in December, against state-mandated water-reduction targets.

The San Diego County Water Authority is working with state regulators to ease the water-reduction targets, which now range from 12 to 36 percent, by up to 8 percentage points. This could happen as early as March.

“The State Board’s decision is good news for our communities and ratepayers,” said water authority Chair Mark Weston. “These modifications recognize the need to take into account local water supply development efforts as well as increased conservation when implementing emergency drought response measures.

“Supplies from the Carlsbad desalination plant will reduce the need for extreme water conservation efforts in our region, an appropriate benefit for our proactive efforts to improve our water supply reliability by investing in the plant,” he said.

The $1 billion plant is producing as much as 50 million gallons a day, or nearly 10 percent of the San Diego region’s needs. As a result of the new plant, and concerted conservation efforts, San Diego has been using less water than it takes in and storing the rest in the giant, newly-expanded San Vicente Reservoir.

“Water conservation is still important and we still must keep water use below 2013 levels to meet the state mandate, but we can now do so with fewer impacts to our economy and quality of life,” said Weston.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.