Residents of Santa Barbara that live downtown or in the Funk Zone may have noticed a slight difference in the taste of their tap water this week.
That’s because divers are working on two intake pumps for the city’s Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant and using the barge residents may have spotted off of East Beach.
The barge — DB Salta Verde — arrived last Sunday and is tentatively scheduled to leave on Monday.
“The barge is onsite to support maintenance, repair and inspection efforts of the two desal intake pumps and related infrastructure, including the 30-inch diameter intake pipeline,” Cathy Taylor, Santa Barbara’s water supply and services manager, told the News-Press.
The barge is equipped with a crane to pull the desalination equipment and supports the divers performing the underwater work, currently at a depth of 40 feet. They can only work at that depth for a limited time.
This maintenance happens annually, according to Ms. Taylor.
When maintenance is performed on the desalination equipment, the plant must be offline for the safety of the divers. It’s anticipated to be offline for a couple of weeks.
“There are many factors associated with bringing the desal plant back into service, including ocean conditions, reconditioning the filters and having the drinking water pass all required state drinking water tests before it can be put into the distribution system,” Ms. Taylor said.
Desalinated water is primarily consumed downtown and in the Funk Zone areas, so while the plant is down, Ms. Taylor said residents could notice a slight taste difference.
“While the city’s treated surface water, groundwater and desalinated water all meet or exceed state drinking water regulations, they each have a unique taste,” Ms. Taylor said. “The taste of the city’s tap water depends on where it is drawn.”
Surface water in Santa Barbara is treated at its Cater Water Treatment Plant and then distributed throughout the city and to the Montecito and Carpinteria areas; groundwater enters the distribution system from each well site; and desalinated water enters the distribution system from the desalination plant.
However, Ms. Taylor said that the city currently has a pipeline project in design that will convey the desalinated water to the city’s Cater Water Treatment Plant, where it will be mixed with treated surface water to provide more of a homogenous mix of drinking water for users. Then, it will all taste the same.
“The city fortunately has a robust and diverse water portfolio that includes Lake Cachuma, Gibraltar Reservoir, state water, groundwater, desalinated water, recycled water and a vigorous water conservation program,” the manager said. “The city also has the option to import water, as it did during the recent drought. The diversity of the city’s water supplies enables the city to rely on other supplies when one is impacted, while ensuring safe and continuous water service for the community.”