SANTA BARBARA, CA — This seaside city thought it had the perfect solution the last time California withered in a severe drought more than two decades ago: Tap the ocean to turn salty seawater to fresh water.
The $34 million desalination plant was fired up for only three months and mothballed after a miracle soaking of rain.
As the state again grapples with historic dryness, the city nicknamed the “American Riviera” has its eye on restarting the idled facility to hedge against current and future droughts.
“We were so close to running out of water during the last drought. It was frightening,” said Joshua Haggmark, interim water resources manager. “Desalination wasn’t a crazy idea back then.”