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The Need in Monterey County


The Monterey Peninsula is facing a serious water shortage that is growing worse due to drought and climate. Since 1995, state water authorities have limited amount of water to be pumped from the Carmel River, which has historically provided the bulk of water supply to the Monterey Peninsula.  The community desperately needs new supplies to protect the Carmel River and provide a reliable water supply for the future.

The lack of reliable water supplies has resulted in a building moratorium, significantly impacting the region’s ability to provide affordable housing and economic development in the community.

Water conservation and water efficiency strategies have been largely successful, as the Monterey Peninsula has some of the lowest water usages in the state, using about 57 gallons per person each day.  Currently, restrictions ordering pumping limit the amount of water from the Carmel River to protect critical habitat and endangered species.  Future challenges from climate change, drought, and seawater intrusion will put our water supplies at greater risk. However, given the severity of the drought, seawater intrusion and limits on surrounding water sources, severe rationing and further loss of economic activity are facing the community.

To meet ordered cutbacks, the Monterey Peninsula must develop a water replacement source, which is why California American Water has received approval for the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, which will establish a water desalination plant in the region and create a reliable and sustainable source in conjunction with stormwater capture and water recycling.

Equitable Access

The current building moratorium on the Monterey Peninsula has magnified a severe housing shortage.  The development of affordable housing has been halted for years, resulting in hospitality workers who serve the travel and tourism industry of the Monterey Peninsula living far outside the community, enduring long and expensive commutes. 

Monterey County residents need a reliable source of water before the current system further disenfranchises the region’s most vulnerable residents.

The project will also provide water to the community of Castroville, which is a disadvantaged community facing its own drinking water crisis as seawater intrusion threatens its primary drinking water supplies.

Project Overview

The Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project is part of a comprehensive multi-pronged reliable water supply strategy to protect the Carmel River and critical habitats for the endangered species that depend on the river. The strategy also includes desalination, aquifer storage and recovery of excess winter river flows and treated wastewater through our participation in the Pure Water Monterey project.

The project will use advanced slant well technology to draw ocean water from beneath a sandy beach located at the former CEMEX industrial sand mining facility in Marina, thereby minimizing any harm to marine life. The treatment plant will be powered with 100% renewable power or equivalents to achieve net-zero Greenhouse Gas emission.

The application for the region’s desalination project was recently deemed complete and will be heard before the California Coastal Commission in coming months.

Helping the Local Economy

California American Water has industry leading customer affordability programs to ensure that essential water use remains affordable for all.  The Customer Assistance Program currently provides a 30 percent discount on water bills and will escalate to 50 percent when MPWSP comes online.  In addition, the company offers crisis assistance programs and excellent conservation services and rebates.

In 2020, economists estimated that construction of the project would create full time jobs for 1,762 people for one year, including at least 230 jobs for residents of Marina and Seaside.  Beyond the scope of the construction, the project will supply water to new housing for some of the more than 20,000 workers employed in Monterey County’s travel and tourism trade.  Operations of the plant will employ many new highly skilled licensed water treatment operators who will live in work in the community.

Community Support

The Reliable Water for Monterey County Coalition is comprised of dozens of local stakeholders, advocacy organizations, environmental justice groups, conservation advocates and others who are committed to bringing reliable and sustain water replacement efforts to the Monterey Peninsula.

Additional Information

For more information and to learn more about the Reliable Water for Monterey County Coalition and the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, please visit our FAQ page:  

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