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Westlands' Innovative Desalination Project Gets $1.5M State Grant
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 12 months ago on
April 20, 2023

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A $1.5 million state grant heading to Westlands Water District will support a desalination and on-farm recycling project that aims to improve the water supply for local communities and growers.

“Ensuring Westlands farmers and the surrounding communities we serve have access to clean, reliable, and affordable water is mission critical for us. We are thrilled we can get started on this innovative project to help bring additional clean water to the district,” said Jose Gutierrez, interim general manager for Westlands, in a news release on Thursday.

“The project will increase local water supply and reliability, and could improve shallow groundwater quality, all of which are critical for farmers and the communities we serve.”

The communities that will receive the water are Coalinga, Huron, and Avenal.

The pilot project features advanced technologies to capture, treat, and annually put to beneficial use up to 1,460 acre-feet of groundwater that has been unsuitable because of its high salt content.

Westlands officials say that by using proprietary plants engineered to absorb salts and other constituents, the district will be able to irrigate salt-tolerant plantings with mineralized water. The crops will be rich in nutrients, making them a valuable source of bio-nutrients for livestock when harvested while also removing salts from the water.

Officials also said the district is working closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board on the project.

The project is expected to start in the fall and run for two years to demonstrate proof of concept.

Prop 1 Funds Desalination Projects Throughout State

Funded by Proposition 1, a $7.545 billion bond approved by voters in 2014, the Water Desalination Grant Program supports the construction and design of pilot projects that desalinate naturally occurring brackish and ocean water for drinking water supply.

“The state is exploring all opportunities to invest in innovative strategies like desalination to meet our growing water needs — including treating brackish water and ocean water where it’s environmentally appropriate on our 840 miles of coastline.” — DWR Director Karla Nemeth

In addition to the Westlands grant, the state Department of Water Resources announced on Wednesday two other grants totaling $3.5 million for projects in Torrance and near the city of Fort Bragg.

The Torrance project will provide a sustainable local potable water supply and increase desalinated water production by 1,120-acre feet per year. That’s about enough water for 2,200 households.

The Fort Bragg project features a wave-powered, seawater desalination iceberg buoy to provide drinking water to residents.

“California faces a range of water supply challenges, and climate change continues to intensify shifts between weather extremes as we’ve seen this season,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in a news release. “The state is exploring all opportunities to invest in innovative strategies like desalination to meet our growing water needs — including treating brackish water and ocean water where it’s environmentally appropriate on our 840 miles of coastline.”

To date, DWR has awarded over $82 million in Prop. 1 desalination grants ranging from more than $100,000 to $10 million to support 20 projects.

 

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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