Two of San Diego’s biggest water treatment plants are in North County. Both are having some problems.
First, there’s the desalination plant in Carlsbad. It’s the largest facility of its kind in the country that takes ocean water and makes it drinkable.
Over the last year, the privately owned Carlsbad plant failed to deliver nearly a fifth of the water the San Diego County Water Authority ordered from it. Why? The various problems at the plant include mechanical failures, regulatory wrinkles that will almost certainly be ironed out and some things beyond the plant’s control, including an algal bloom.
Second, there’s the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant in San Marcos, which is a more traditional water treatment facility.
The San Marcos plant has also been experiencing problems. It takes “raw” water from the Colorado River or the mountains of Northern California and makes it drinkable. The plant is owned by the Water Authority but operated by a company called CH2M Hill using water treatment technology provided by General Electric. Since at least last summer, the plant’s filtration technology has been fouling up, which means it cannot consistently produce the 100 million gallons per day of water it is supposed to be able to.
The Water Authority is keeping a close eye on problems at both plants but the region’s water supply is not in any danger, thanks to a wet winter that took the state out of a historic drought. When either plant fails to operate, the Water Authority is able to order water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has a massive water treatment plant in Riverside County.