Environment & Science

Catalina Island aims to avoid more water rationing with new desalination plant

Workers at the new desalination plant on Catalina Island.
Workers at the new desalination plant on Catalina Island.
Joseph Foulk/ Southern California Edison

Catalina Island is set to add a new desalination plant that the local government hopes will delay more cutbacks to the island's water use as California's drought continues. Since August 2014, Catalina Island has had to reduce its water usage by 25 percent.

The new desalination plant has been built through a partnership between Los Angeles County, the city of Avalon and Southern California Edison. Edison began constructing the desalination plant in June as another water source for the island that would help reduce the need for more water rationing.  

"The ultimate goal [of the new desalination plant] is to not enter the next stage of rationing, which would require a 50 percent reduction across the board," Ron Hite, Southern California Edison district manager for Catalina Island, told KPCC. 

The new desalination plant cost $3 million, according to Edison. The Avalon City Council voted to provide $500,000 in funding.

The desalination plant is set to be up and running by Dec. 7. Hite said that all that is left is to secure a drinking water permit from the state.

The new desalination plant is the island's second. Hite said that he hopes the island can get by until the rainy season comes with the help of the new plant. He said that he hopes storms will refill the island's aquifers so that people can go back to relying on the island's groundwater system. According to Edison, groundwater is the island's main water source.  

The new desalination plant "really supplements the groundwater system in a way that did not require lengthy permitting processes," Hite said. 

While there have been some minor problems with customers who exceed limitations, there has been an overall 40 percent reduction in water use by island residents, Hite said, and during a time when tourism increased. The 40 percent reduction has also helped delay the need to add more mandatory reductions.