Secretary Salazar Visits Yuma Desalting Plant, Praises Progress of Year-Long Pilot Program

Last edited 09/29/2021

YUMA, AZ – During a visit to the Yuma Desalting Plant today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said he is encouraged by progress made on the year-long pilot run of the facility to collect performance and cost data as the plant desalts irrigation drainage water. Secretary Salazar made the remarks after concluding a brief inspection of the Bureau of Reclamation facility earlier this afternoon.

“The plant is clearly operating better than expected – with water production ahead of schedule and operating costs coming in under budget,” Secretary Salazar said today. “The combined impacts of drought, population growth and climate change on water in the Southwest have increased the stress on the Colorado River. This pilot run would not have been possible without agreements with key water districts as well as with our neighbors in Mexico. It is the type of collaborative partnership we will need to stretch our available supplies so we can meet our water needs both now and into the future.”

Federal officials and water agencies in the three Lower Colorado River Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada began the year-long pilot run of the facility on May 3rd of this year to collect performance and cost data as the plant desalts (reclaims) irrigation drainage water. Desalted water from the plant is delivered to the Republic of Mexico as part of an international treaty to provide 1.5 million acre-feet annually of water – allowing more Colorado River water to remain in Lake Mead. The Lower Colorado River Basin is experiencing an unprecedented drought and Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in that basin.

The Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have agreed to provide $14 million of the estimated $23.2 million cost of the pilot run. The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation shares the remainder of the cost.

Through September 30, 2010, the plant had desalted 14,344 acre-feet of water (one acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons). Over the course of the run, the plant is expected to reclaim a total of about 29,000 acre-feet of irrigation drainage water. Reclaimed water is released into the Colorado River, and delivered by treaty to Mexico, allowing 29,000 acre-feet of water – enough to serve 116,000 people for one year – to remain in Lake Mead.

“As the Southwest continues to grapple with unprecedented water-resource challenges, this project represents a path to sustainability through collaboration,” added Secretary Salazar. “As we dedicate ourselves to efforts like this, we ensure our water resource choices are based on sound information and cooperative resource management.”

“As of today, the operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant has remained 100-percent on-line without accident and with no substantial equipment malfunctions, processing delays or concerns,” Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor said today. “Based on these outstanding results from the first six-months of operations, we anticipate a fully successful pilot run.”

Construction of the plant was essentially completed in 1992. Since then it has been maintained but only briefly operated in 1993 and 2007. When the plant is not operating, irrigation drainage water – too salty to discharge into the Colorado River – flows into the Cienega de Santa Clara, a wetlands in Mexico. Before the pilot run started, an international agreement was reached that provides additional water to the wetlands during the run. As a result, the success of the pilot also marks the successful implementation of the international agreement.


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