The sailor in the 18th century poem “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” got it right when he said, “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” When surrounded by seawater, you’re fresh out of luck if you’re thirsty. However, that situation may be changing, thanks to desalination projects that turn salt water into fresh water.

A case in point comes from a plant soon to be completed in Carlsbad, Calif., located at the northern end of San Diego County. Owned and developed by Poseidon Water, the plant will provide clean water to approximately 300,000 people, and FRP composite piping plays a key role because of its material properties. “For large diameter, above ground, low-pressure piping, IDE finds composite piping to be the most suitable,” says Ziv Shor, project manager for IDE Technologies.

Ershigs GFRP Pipe

More than a mile of GFRP piping is used in the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, which was slated to be fully operational late this year. Photo Credit: Ershigs

Based in Kadima, Israel, IDE Technologies specializes in the development, engineering, construction and operation of enhanced desalination and industrial water treatment plants. The company built the largest desalination plant in China and also built and operates the largest desalination plant in the world, which is located in Israel. IDE is the process designer and equipment supplier for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant and will operate it.

For California, the development of additional water supplies is critical, which is why the Carlsbad Desalination Plant is important. The state is facing one of the most severe droughts on record, resulting in a government edict for a 25 percent reduction in water usage state wide. Being able to economically transform previously undrinkable seawater into useful drinking water could be part of the long-term solution to the crisis.

Shor says the Carlsbad facility is a game changer. It’s the largest desalination plant in the Americas and is the first major California infrastructure project with a net zero carbon footprint. The plant’s design is based upon IDE’s reverse osmosis technology. In reverse osmosis, unwanted contaminants, like salt, are removed by forcing water through a semipermeable membrane. On one side of the membrane you get drinking water. On the other, you get an effluent with a higher concentration of brine, making it corrosive. In the Carlsbad plant, IDE used what it calls an innovative pre-treatment phase to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption.