Santa Barbara Awarded $10 Million Desalination Grant

The city of Santa Barbara has been awarded a $10 million grant by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to offset the $72 million cost of reactivating the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant.

Santa Barbara Desalination Plant Aerial

Santa Barbara Desalination Plant Aerial

The desalination plant has been a permanent part of the city’s water supply portfolio since 1994, and in its reactivated state has been supplying water to city water customers since May 2017.

The plant serves a key role in providing a high-quality, local, drought-proof supply that is available for health and safety needs despite rainfall conditions.

During reactivation, state-of-the-art technology and design practices were incorporated to minimize electrical demand and environmental impacts. The plant currently produces 3 million gallons of drinking water per day.

This is equivalent to 3,125 acre-feet of water annually or about 30 percent of the city’s demand.

Santa Barbara Desalination Plant

Santa Barbara Desalination Plant

Charles Meyer Desalination Facility Sign

Charles Meyer Desalination Facility Sign

“This grant provides a direct financial benefit to our customers,” said Joshua Haggmark, city water resources manager.

“Now in the seventh year of drought, the cost of providing water service has risen dramatically to ensure sufficient water is available to meet the needs of the community," he said.

"This grant will go a long way in helping to minimize the need for a large rate increase in the near future while providing much needed funding for water infrastructure,” he said.

DWR’s Round 4 Water Desalination Grant Program is funded by Proposition 1 which was passed by California voters as part of the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.

Proposition 1 provided $7.5 billion in funding to improve California’s water reliability through increased water supplies, protection and restoration of watersheds, water quality improvement, and increased flood protection.

Of that funding, $100 million in grants were set aside for brackish or seawater desalination projects.  

The city would like to acknowledge and thank State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson for her support of Prop. 1 and her support of Santa Barbara’s work toward drought resiliency and desalination.

Jackson was instrumental in making it possible for the city to compete for the grant funds given the accelerated scheduled for reactivation of the desal plant.

“As we work to address our region’s ongoing drought, it is critical that we invest in maintaining a reliable and safe water supply. I am proud that I was able to assist the city of Santa Barbara with securing this grant, as it helps ensure the city has a diverse and drought-resilient water system,” Jackson said.

For more information on the desal plant, visit or call the water resources division, 564-5378.

— Madeline Wood for city of Santa Barbara.

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