In early October, the City of Santa Barbara began work on a two-mile-long pipeline connecting its desalination plant to its main water distribution hub, the Cater Water Treatment Plant in the San Roque foothills. The work so far may only be visible in the form of chalk markings in the street, as it starts with mapping the existing underground infrastructure before trenches are dug and the pipes are laid out.
The pipeline is part of a project designed to expand the reach of the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant, which supplies about 25 percent of the city’s drinking water and currently serves residents and businesses between the waterfront and Micheltorena Street. Once the project is completed, engineers will upgrade the desal plant pumps to send water uphill and rearrange the pipes at Cater to enable the flow. In an online webinar, supervising engineer Carson Wollert explained the environmental reports for the project dated to the 1990s, presumably when the desal plant was originally built. It was soon idled, but after years of drought, the plant was upgraded and restarted in 2017.
The connection work starts at the junction of Garden and Mission streets before proceeding downhill in three-block sections, each of which should take about six weeks to complete. From Garden, the work goes along Sola Street, then down Olive to Ortega, over to Calle Cesar Chavez, and ending at Yanonali Street. As trenching proceeds, each area will be closed to traffic and street parking. The Sola Street fire station will remain open, Wollert said, but residents might expect some delays in accessing their driveways while construction is underway.
Most work will occur during business hours to avoid nighttime noise. But in busier commercial areas, some work will occur at night to keep access to businesses open. The pipeline is anticipated to be completed in fall 2022.