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Water desalination is the removal of salts and dissolved solids from saline water (brackish or seawater), also known as Desalting or Desalinization. In addition to the removal of minerals, the process removes most biological or organic chemical compounds. Most desalination processes are based either on thermal distillation or membrane separation technologies. To learn more about water desalination, related issues, status in California and recommendations for a California strategy, see Chapter 10, Desalination (Brackish and Sea Water), in Volume 3 of the California Water Plan Update 2013.

Water Desalination Grant Program

DWR provides grants to local agencies for the planning, design and construction of water desalination facilities for both brackish and ocean water. It also provides grants for pilot, demonstration and research projects. DWR conducted three rounds of funding since 2005 using Proposition 50 funds. The rules and procedures for funding vary depending on funding source, availability of funds and DWR priorities at the time of funding. A fourth round of funding is planned using primarily Proposition 1 funds. For more information, click here.

Desalination Handbook

California Desalination Planning Handbook

DWR's California Desalination Planning Handbook is a guide for participants in water supply planning who are considering desalination options for water supply.  The question of whether to locally implement a desalination project can be complicated.  If a community determines desalination is appropriate for its needs, this Handbook is a guidance document for developing, where appropriate, economically and environmentally acceptable seawater and brackish groundwater desalination facilities in California. The planning process outlined in the Handbook is intended to identify and address the siting, regulatory, technical, environmental and other issues that should be considered in determining whether and how to proceed with a desalination project.

California Water Desalination Task Force

In 2002, the California Legislature approved Assembly Bill 2717 (Hertzberg, Chapter 957), which asked DWR to convene the California Water Desalination Task Force to look into potential opportunities and impediments for using seawater and brackish water desalination, and to examine what role, if any, the State should play in furthering the use of desalination technology. A primary finding of the Task Force is that economically and environmentally acceptable desalination should be considered as part of a balanced water portfolio to help meet California's existing and future water supply and environmental needs. DWR prepared and submitted to the Legislature in 2003 the report, “Water Desalination: Findings and Recommendations, to capture the valuable work of the Task Force.

Mobile Water Desalination Units

These units provide emergency water supply wherever and whenever needed. The units can be easily moved (via air, land or marine transport) and deployed to drought-stricken and water-stressed areas. Mobile desalination units provide flexibility in supplying potable water to communities by connecting to existing municipal water storage and delivery systems. They can also be quickly and easily decommissioned or moved to other locations should drought conditions ease. The report* "Logistics for Deploying Mobile Water Desalination Units" was prepared in 2009 to address mobile desalination units.

*Please note that this report, titled "Logistics for Deploying Mobile Water Desalination Units," is being revised. If you have information that could assist in this revision or have questions about the report, please contact Michael Ross, (916) 651-0717,