Cal Am’s Desal Raises Critical Concerns for Marina’s Water Future

Steve Zmak-Drone Portfolio 201725

Last Chance to Be Heard! Nov. 17, 9 am 
The California Coastal Commission Needs Your Input.

Click for where and how to give input

Pure Water Monterey Recycled Water Expansion can replace Cal Am’s desal at a fraction of the cost with no coastal impact. 

Expansion of Pure Water Monterey Recycled Water can meet the Peninsula's new housing and growth needs for 30 years

The Pure Water Monterey Expansion project represents a regional solution to the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply needs where the benefits and burdens of this wastewater project are shared among affected communities and for which there is broad community support.

Cal Am Desal threatens to diminish and contaminate Marina’s water supply with saltwater intrusion.

100% of your drinking water comes from Marina’s groundwater basin. 

Cal Am proposes to build a desal project that will take up to 15 million gallons per day from Marina’s already over-drafted groundwater basin. It would only supply Monterey Peninsula customers. Marina would receive none of this water 

It threatens to diminish and contaminate Marina’s water supply with saltwater intrusion. 

Cal Am’s desal threatens Marina’s beautiful coastline by adding a major industrial facility on its dunes and beaches.

It would damage vital open space, and natural and wildlife habitat, and would limit access to the new beachfront property after the CEMEX sand mining plant closes

Marina is burdened with the risks and potential harms of the project but receives none of the water produced.

Cal Am desal would only supply Monterey Peninsula customers. Marina would receive none of this water.

Cal Am desal creates several serious environmental justice issues 

Cal Am desal does not conform to provisions of the Coastal Act and Marina’s Local Coastal Program

Last Chance to Be Heard! Nov. 17, 9 am 
The California Coastal Commission Needs Your Input. 

A special Coastal Commission Hearing is being held to vote on Cal Am’s desal permit request. Participate in person or on Zoom. Let them know how you feel about the impact of Cal Am’s desal on Marina’s water supply, beaches, and environment.

Ways to Participate at the CA Coastal Commission Hearing on Thursday, November 17, 2022 on the Cal-Am Slant Well Desalination project proposed in Marina.

The City of Marina can assist any individual or group who wishes to participate in-person, by remote Zoom or by emailing public comment.  Contact us by email: If you want a phone call back, please request this in your email.

Can you be at the meeting IN-PERSON (MOST EFFECTIVE)? There are 2 locations: either in Salinas (main venue) or Marina City Council Chambers.

Step 1:

Notify the City of Marina to indicate if you will be attending the meeting in the Marina City Council Chambers and register at Choose the Thursday, November 17, 2022 hearing date for your comments.

If attending the meeting in the Marina City Council Chambers:

  • Indicate as part of  in the questions that you will be attending on Zoom by computer; and
  • Please identify the person’s name who you will be sharing a device with: Marina Council Chambers

Step 2:

When registration is completed, the CA Coastal Commission (CCC) will send you a confirmation email. It will come from sender CACC “Speaker Meeting information to Coastal Commission”; the text will begin with “Thank you for your submittal”. Save this email, and scroll down to find the Zoom link to be used to enter the meeting.

Step 3:

Prepare a one minute script. Be sure to say you are a resident of Marina and something about yourself and your family. 

Note: If you would like a special photo of your family or other subject matter, please submit this to the Coastal Commission IT staff prior to 5 pm on the Wednesday November 16th.  

Step 4:

On the day of the hearing, go to the Salinas or Marina location. Public comments will likely come in late morning (groups) and in afternoon (individuals). We cannot predict when you will be called to speak. Parking may be a problem in Salinas. Special parking may be arranged by CCC but that is not known at this time. 

When it’s your turn, simply approach the podium, (or unmute yourself if attending from your own computer) and read your one-minute script.

Desal Project Background

Cal Am, a private for-profit water corporation, has proposed a desalination plant that would be located in the City of Marina – the plant would use slant wells to draw brackish (salt) water, and also tap into significant fresh groundwater sources that Marina residents rely upon for 100% of their drinking water.

The proposed Monterey Peninsula Water Supply desalination project is currently being reviewed under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The California Public Utilities Commission released the project’s Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the Project.

The City of Marina has been engaged for years in the regulatory review process for the project, and has raised a series of concerns regarding project impacts. 

  • Harm to the Coastal environment: The desal project would bring industrial development to an area that should be protected for coastal habitat and public access. 
  • Risk to the groundwater basin: Research by experts at Stanford University shows that the desalination project would tap into freshwater sources. Those groundwater supplies must be responsibly managed under new requirements of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Furthermore, as the water is pumped from the targeted aquifers it will lead to increased seawater inrusion and contaminate the regional groundwater supply.
  • Incorrect assumptions on groundwater demand: CalAm’s application to the CPUC was based on outdated water demand information that ended in 2016.  Now that three more full years (2017-2019) of recorded water demand data is available, multiple experts have confirmed that true water demand is much lower than CalAm’s historic projections and found that the Pure Water Monterey Expansion project, along with other existing sources,  could meet all future water demand for the Monterey Peninsula until about 2050.
  • Violation of binding legal agreement on water use for the project location: In 1996, the City of Marina entered into a legally binding agreement regarding annexation of the CEMEX property where Cal Am wants to locate their project, and the agreement included very specific provisions regarding groundwater use. It was intended to reduce seawater intrusion and protect the groundwater resources in the Salinas River Groundwater Basin.  It stated that the CEMEX property users were limited to extraction of 500 afy of groundwater – and it also prohibited exporting any of the extracted groundwater to users outside the Basin.  Cal Am’s planned use of the CEMEX property directly violates both the limitations of groundwater extraction, and the absolute prohibition on exported extracting groundwater to users outside the Basin.
  • Better alternatives are available: The Pure Water Monterey Expansion Project presents a reasonable and sufficient alternative option to supply the long-term water needs of the Monterey Peninsula – at much less cost and with much less risk.

The desalination project would be located in the City of Marina and tap into Marina’s drinking water supply, yet the plant will not serve water customers within the City’s boundaries. There is no plan regarding how local water supplies and local water rates for Marina residents would be protected.

The City of Marina Planning Commission voted against the Cal Am project permit, and found that the project is inconsistent with the land use plans and principles held by the City and the State. Next, the California Coastal Commission is set to consider granting a Coastal Development Permit to overturn the City of Marina’s permit denial. This decision will be issued at the Coastal Commission Meeting September 17, 2020.

Information on watching and participating in this hearing can be found at:

The final EIR/EIS is available online at the National Marine Sanctuary’s website at

Links to Related Documents:


City of Marina Press Releases:

Related News Coverage:

Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project