Watch CBS News

CA Drought: Desalination Could Be Backup Plan For Marin County's Emergency Pipeline Project

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) -- As the drought worsens in Marin County, water officials are considering an expensive solution: desalination. That plan could land the county in a bidding war.

Desalination is an idea that surfaces every time drought comes around and usually gets set aside as soon as the drought passes. Now, Marin is taking another look at taking water from right out of the bay.

"So we previously looked at a permanent desalination facility back in 2010," says Emma Detwiler of the Marin Municipal Water District. "It would be placed down in San Rafael, by the bay, close to the Central Marin Sanitation Agency."

As the water levels continue to drop in Marin County's reservoirs, more options are being put on the table in the event of another dry winter. Plan "A" continues to be an emergency pipeline over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

"That project is a priority because it would bring us a larger volume of water that more closely meets our demand needs," Detwiler says. "We're looking at desal as a secondary backup option."

It is a backup option because it provides less water, at greater cost. The mobile desal units being considered are in high demand around the world. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia is even shopping for some for his own project.

The district is talking with three different companies. They're confident they would be able to make a deal if it becomes absolutely necessary and everyone here knows that drastic measures may not be far away.

"Everybody is keenly aware of the situation and all of us in Marin County, we've cut back water usage massively, really to the point where there are few more cuts that one can make," says resident Alison Mittelstadt.

Without rain, time is running out for what's left in reservoirs like Alpine Lake. Whether it's the pipeline, desal, or maybe both, emergency plans will be needed soon.

"The more successful we are in our conversation, the longer our existing supplies will last, which gives us more time to explore these supplemental water projects," Detwiler says."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.