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Residents tour Santa Barbara’s desalination plant

The public got the chance to tour Santa Barbara’s reactivated Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant on Saturday.

The plant first operated in 1992, and later deactivated, was restarted in May 2017.

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson toured the facility along with dozens of curious residents who wanted to see how the plant works firsthand.

“This is a critically important tool in our toolbox, as we deal with the impacts of climate change and the severe drought we’ve been having,” Jackson said.

Restarting the desalination plant cost $72 million.

The plant, which pumps out more than 3 million gallons of water every day for the city, works by reverse osmosis removing impurities from ocean water. Minerals are then added back to the water.

Resident Melissa Ryan went on a tour and then checked out the water quality for herself with samples provided by city officials.

“It tastes very clean and pure,” Ryan said. “It definitely doesn’t taste like tap water.”

“It really is great quality. If people haven’t tried their tap water, they need to turn their tap water on,” said Water Resources Manager, Joshua Haggmark.

Haggmark said the desalination plant now meets 30% of the cities needs, as water remains scarce due to Santa Barbara’s ongoing drought and other resources like the Gibraltar dam now unable to provide much water after it was damaged in the 1-9 Debris Flow.

Haggmark also said negative environmental impacts have been mitigated as much as possible.

“We’ve adapted the best screen technology which minimizes what gets pulled into the facility,” Haggmark said.

The current tour schedule is full. The city plans to offer additional tours beginning in the fall.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the 1-9 Debris Flow as “9-11 Debris Flow.”

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