Desalination Banner

Ocean Plan Requirements for Seawater Desalination Facilities

Seawater Desalination Overview

Desalination facilities produce freshwater by removing salts from brackish or saltwater for municipal, industrial, or other uses. Seawater desalination draws water from the ocean and passes the water through a membrane, resulting in an amount of fresh water and an amount of hypersaline brine. The Ocean Plan includes requirements to ensure the construction and operation of seawater desalination facilities minimize intake and mortality of all forms of marine life. Mitigation measures are required to address harmful impacts to marine life that occur even when a desalination facility uses the best available site, design, and technology feasible. State Water Board Resources Control Board Resolution 2015-0033 describes the responsibility regarding the siting, planning, construction, and operation of desalination plants in the state of California.

California Ocean Plan
Final Staff Report

Seawater Desalination Siting and Streamlining Report to Expedite Permitting

The State Water Board released the Seawater Desalination Interagency Group’s Final Seawater Desalination Siting and Streamlining Report to Expedite Permitting to fulfill directives set by California’s Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter Drier Future. The Draft Report has no regulatory force or effect but includes interagency recommendations to clarify the most efficient permitting process while ensuring appropriate review of projects.

In January 2023, State Water Board staff convened a Seawater Desalination Interagency Group, comprising state and federal agencies to establish criteria agreed upon by multiple state permitting entities for the efficient and timely approval of coastal desalination projects to help address increasing threats to California’s water supply while protecting coastal marine environments. The Report has no regulatory force or effect but includes interagency recommendations.

The Draft Report was released for public comment in July and on July 21, 2023, staff held an informational Webinar to share the impetus and approach for developing the Draft Report and provide an overview of its recommendations, including brief presentations from some of the interagency partners involved in this collaborative effort. State agencies incorporated this feedback in the final Report released in December 2023 and are committed to continue to improve permitting efficiency for desalination projects following the governor’s acceptance of their recommendations in the Report.

Seawater Desalination Facilities

Region 1 – North Coast
Charles Reed
(707) 576-2752

Region 2 – San Francisco Bay
Thomas Mumley
(510) 622-2395

Region 3 – Central Coast
Peter von Langen
(805) 549-3688

Region 4 – Los Angeles
Jeong-Hee Lim
(951) 576-6616

Region 8 – Santa Ana
Julio Lara
(951) 782-4995

Region 9 – San Diego
Fisayo Osibodu
(619) 521-8036

Contact the State Water Board

Clifton Herrmann
Recycled Water and Desalination Unit
(916) 327-8638

Laura McLellan
Recycled Water and Desalination Unit
(916) 319-8288

Gintare Huckeba
Recycled Water and Desalination Unit
(916) 323-0684