Water desalination is closer to becoming a reality for Otay Water District customers, and is a technology whose time has come. Consolidated Water Co. Ltd. (Consolidated), a company that develops and operates seawater desalination plants and water distribution systems in the Cayman Islands, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas, has announced plans to construct a 100 million gallon per day desalination plant to serve Tijuana and Rosarito Beach, Mexico, and Otay Water District.
The cities of Tijuana and Rosarito Beach rely on a limited supply of Colorado River water to serve their large and growing populations and economies; just like their neighbors to the north. And similar to us, their supplies are under pressure due to drought, climate change, limited supply and increased demand.
This is why Consolidated’s plan to construct a joint use facility to serve customers on both sides of the border makes so much sense. It is not just because the San Diego/Tijuana metropolitan area has a large population with a limited water supply; it is the recognition that our economies, infrastructure, manufacturing, electrical generation capacity and natural gas distribution are already interconnected. We even share water distribution facilities since Otay delivers Mexican water to the Tijuana system from time to time under agreement with the International Boundary and Water Commission. A bi-national desalination plant is one more opportunity for the two regions to benefit from our proximity.
The $500 million desalination facility will be state-of-the-art. It will be located next to the existing Presidente Juarez Thermoelectric Plant in Rosarito Beach and will utilize the pre-existing water intake and outfall infrastructure – minimizing the impact to the marine environment. The proximity to the power plant also maximizes energy efficiency and cost effectiveness. The project will be built in phases, and at ultimate build-out it will produce up to 100-million gallons per day of high quality water that will surpass the quality of any water we currently have available; even that of many bottled waters. Consolidated will build a 25-mile pipeline to the border, and no U.S. dollars are being spent on this project in Mexico. After Mexico’s water demands are met, the District will have the opportunity to purchase up to 50 million gallons per day of this water; enough to supply 112,000 homes and businesses.
Desalination is not a new technology. The ships and submarines of the U.S. Navy use this technology to produce drinking water for our military. Moreover, coastal communities around the world, including those in the Middle East, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Australia, long ago turned to desalination to supply water to their people and economies.
With an experienced company like Consolidated accepting the challenge of supplying high quality water to our growing region; the unreliable nature of our imported water supply and even higher prices projected in the near future, and the need for more water to sustain our recovering economy, desalinating ocean water is an opportunity whose time has come.
Lopez is an Otay Water District board member.