Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is new water source for county - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is new water source for county

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San Luis Obispo County Supervisors are looking to the only new water source in the county, the desalination plant at PG&E's Diablo Canyon Power Plant. 

This desal facility can produce nearly a million gallons of water a day, operating for the past 30 years. However, the drinkable water it is making, is only used at the power plant. 

"It is our drinking water, it is the water we use in the kitchen, we operate it in the plant, it is all the water we use on site," says Tom Jones, who oversees the desal facility at the power plant. "The water started in the Pacific, went through our water treatment plant -- it is a water desalination facility. We removed the salt from it and other impurities, and we pump it up the hill here were we store five million gallons of it for plant use.

The harsh drought leaving a dry mark on the state, officials say this water can be used for much more than the plant's uses. 

"We could pump this to a treatment facility or build a separate treatment facility here and tie it into other existing water systems," says Jones.

In the state of California, this is the largest operating desalination plant that can produce up to one million gallons of water a day, but the power plant is using only about 40 percent of it.

"This is an opportunity to create new water and to get us water that we critically need in the short term and for the long term as well," says San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill.

Hill does not want that extra water to go waste. He says his plan is to buy the extra 60 percent from PG&E.

"We never want to see our CAL FIRE guys or our city fire guys having to deal with not having enough water," says Hill.

With the depleting reservoirs, time is of the essence.

"It would be a couple months to a year or two," says Jones. "We would have to construct a pipeline from Diablo Canyon to the front gate which is about seven and a half miles, but that interconnection gets us into public water systems so then water could be moved around the county and into people's homes."

County officials say the first priority areas are the South County basins. Next would be the Los Osos area. Eventually, the county's goal is to expand the desal plant to be able to sell the water to neighboring counties.

CAL FIRE currently buys water for firefighting from PG&E for $3.34 per thousand gallons. It is not clear how much that water would cost residents or how much the county would spend on the project.

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