In November 2002, California voters passed Proposition 50, the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002. Chapter 6(a) of Proposition 50 (Water Code Section 79545(a)), authorized Department of Water Resources (DWR) to administer a $50 million desalination grant program. The grant program aims to assist local public agencies with the development of new local potable water supplies through the construction of feasible brackish water and seawater desalination projects and help advance water desalination technology and its use by means of feasibility studies, research and development, and pilot and demonstration projects.
In 2003, the California Water Desalination Task Force was convened by DWR pursuant to Assembly Bill 2717 to look into potential opportunities and impediments for using brackish water and seawater desalination in California, and to examine what role, if any, the State should play in furthering the use of desalination technology. One of the primary recommendations was that economically and environmentally acceptable desalination should be considered as part of a balanced water portfolio to help meet California’s existing and future water supply and environmental needs.
In 2005, DWR decided that the available $25 million under the Desalination grant cycle would be used to fund 25 different projects including: 3 construction projects, 6 pilot and demonstration projects, 7 research and development projects, and 9 feasibility studies. The Santa Cruz Pilot Plant was one of the 25 projects awarded funding in the 2005 funding cycle. DWR continued the grant program in 2006, funding 24 different projects including: 4 construction projects, 9 pilot and demonstration projects, 7 research and development, and 4 feasibility studies.