Photo courtesy of San Diego County Water Authority
Facility, to be built near a powerplant in Carlsbad, Calif., would produce more than 50 million gal of desalinated water per day.

Israel’s IDE Technologies Ltd. has won a large contract to plan, equip, operate and maintain a seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif.

The $922-million facility, set for completion in 2016, will be largest facility of its type in in the western hemisphere.

The project is being administered by Poseidon Resources in partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority. The agency announced Dec. 24 that it had closed on $734 million of tax-exempt financing after signing an agreement with 20 county municipalities to buy more than 56,000 acre-ft per year of the water produced.

Kiewit Shea Desalination, a joint venture of Kiewit Corp. and J.F. Shea Construction Inc will serve as the EPC contractor for the facility and will be responsible for building the 16-kilometer-long pipeline for delivering desalinated water.

IDE Americas Inc., the Israeli company’s San Diego-based subsidiary, will design the plant, supply its equipment and have overall responsibility for operation and maintenance of the facility as part of a 30-year contract.

IDE valued the design contract at $150 million and the O&M agreement at $500 million.

The plant, set to produce more than 50 million gal of desalinated water per day, is part of the San Diego Water Authority’s goal of supplying 7% of the region’s water from desalination by 2020.

Also part of the engineering team are Malcolm Pirnie and Tetra Tech.

IDE and the other team members beat out teams led by France’s Veolia Water and Spanish firms Acciona Agua and Befesa Agua for the deal.

“This is a major milestone for us to have been selected for the first major desalination project in the US market in over a decade,” says Avshalom Felber, CEO of IDE Technologies.

He sees the Carlsbad plant serving as a major stimulus for future projects that are already on the drawing boards. “California, Texas and Florida will have no choice but to opt for desalination in the years to come,” Felber predicts.

Mark Lambert, a water industry veteran named last September to head IDE’s U.S. unit, told an industry publication that its North American business, also including other municipal and industrial water-wastewater work it hopes to win, could make up about 20% of the parent’s revenue in five to eight years.

IDE, which is jointly owned by Israel Chemicals and the Delek Group, has been active in the field for decades.  It is the leading player in the Israel domestic market, where it operates two large seawater reverse osmosis plants at Ashkelon and Hadera along the country’s Mediterranean coast under BOT contracts.  

The firm is currently building the world’s largest desal plan near Tel Aviv, which is due to come on line by the end of the year.  

In 2000 Israel embarked on a massive desalination program to supply most of the country’s urban demand for water. In addition to Israel, IDE has been active in China, India as well as in Latin America in recent years.

The Carlsbad plant will be using 8-in. membranes similar to the ones at the Ashkelon and Hadera desalination plants.

The California facility will be built next to NRG’s Encina Power Station in Carlsbad.

In a statement, Thomas V. Wornham, water authority chairman and a retired banker, termed the financing deal "a major milestone in the development of this historic project."

The agency added that desalination "is just one piece" of its long-term strategy to reduce "what was once near-total reliance on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California."