Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2019


The California American Water Company's Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (Cal-Am Project) is a proposed desalinization facility in Monterey County that was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in September 2018. The Cal- Am Project would treat water pumped from inland coastal groundwater aquifers-the Dune Sand Aquifer and the 180-Foot Aquifer-rather than water pumped directly from the ocean. The Cal-Am Project's pumping of these coastal aquifers is expected to result in increased seawater intrusion in groundwater.

The Marina Coast Water District and the City of Marina filed petitions with the California Supreme Court alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in connection with the approval of the Cal-Am Project. Beyond the CEQA issues set forth in these petitions, there are three additional key California water law issues related to the Cal-Am Project: (a) whether the groundwater supply for the CalAm Project qualifies as "developed" water; (b) whether the seawater intrusion effects of the Cal-Am Project on coastal aquifer salinity violate California reasonable use law; and (c) whether the seawater intrusion effects of the Cal-Am Project conflict with California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

These three other California water law issues pertain to the CEQA violations alleged in the petitions filed with the California Supreme Court but focus on a more fundamental underlying concern-how to reconcile the provisions of California water law that protect the public interest in maintaining groundwater resources with the private interest in seeking to secure an inexpensive water supply to operate a desalination facility. This more fundamental concern is explored in this article.


Article posted with permission from the California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law Section.

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