April 2013

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Sector Check U.S. Developing Taste for a New Construction Market: Desalination The billion-dollar desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif., may be the beginning of a wave of desalination projects in the U.S. By Joanne Costin After 12 years of planning and more than six years working through the state of California���s permitting process, the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere finally broke ground in December 2012, in Carlsbad, Calif. There���s a lot riding on the success of the $1 billion project, which will turn seawater into high quality drinking water. The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) has agreed to a 30-year purchase agreement for more than 50 million gallons of water a day ��� about 7 percent of its water supply. It will pay about $2,000 per acre-foot or per 326,000 gallons. The Authority is banking on the fact that the costs ��� which are now double those of the most readily available alternative ��� will eventually be competitive. Globally, desalination represents an $18 billion market. However, most of the world���s high-capacity desalination projects are in the Middle East, where energy is cheaper and environmental regulations are more lax. To date, most U.S. desalination plants process inland brackish water from underground aquifers. The first major seawater desalination plant built in Tampa, Fla., in 2002 was fraught with problems including the unexpected bankruptcy of the development firm and construction firm. However, the plant now supplies the region with 10 percent of its drinking water. The desalination industry is hopeful the Carlsbad project will demonstrate that desalination is a reliable and affordable technology that can provide a high quality, local source of water for seaside municipalities. Success, they contend, may help move along more than a dozen desalination plants proposed in California, as well as numerous others in Texas and Florida. ���Having this project move ahead after a decade-long process of developing and permitting is definitely going to be a benefit to future projects in California,��� said Bob Yamada, water resources manager for SDCWA. ���Having the experience of building a project in the U.S. and going through a very challenging, very stringent public permitting process is a plus for potential development opportunities.��� Mark Lambert, CEO of IDE Americas, the company that will design and operate the Carlsbad plant, believes the U.S. is a strong growth market for desalination. ���The U.S. is a $2-2.5 billion market annually and it may double in size over the next five years,��� said Lambert. ���The next desalination plant in California won���t take that long.��� Evidence of a wave of desalination activity is apparent. According to John Loveland, vice president of Engineering for Poseidon, developer of the Carlsbad plant, another plant as large as Carlsbad is set to move forward in Huntington Beach, Calif. During the next six 30 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | April 2013 30_Desalination_Feature_KP.indd 30 3/25/13 12:13 PM

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