Catalina Island uses SoCal Edison desalination plant to avoid drought

Southern California Edison has a desalination plant on Catalina Island that turns ocean water into drinking water.
CATALINA ISLAND, Calif. (KABC) -- If you take a boat ride to Catalina Island, you'll notice it's surrounded by the ocean.

"We're about 4,000 people on a year-round basis, but we get up to a million visitors a year, and so of course that impacts a lot of our infrastructure because we have these visitors and thank God we do because we're an entirely tourist-based community," said Avalon Mayor Anni Marshall.

With hotels, shops and restaurants heavily relying on guests, the island needs drinking water.

Southern California Edison provides power, water and gas to the island. They have a desalination system that turns ocean water into drinking water.

They do this by using a reverse osmosis filter that has holes in it. The water goes into the filter, but the salt doesn't.

"We rely on water from the ocean through desal but also ground water, and the beauty of desal is that it's completely drought resistant as opposed to ground water resources, which require rain," said Ron Hite, district manager at Southern California Edison on Catalina Island.

Years ago, the island experienced a drought, which hurt the local economy.

Only bottled water was served at restaurants and hotels had to pay extra to take laundry to the mainland to clean.

Islanders still do their part to conserve water by having salt water toilets and planting low maintenance plants, like succulents.

On average, the desalination plant supplies 40% of drinking water to the island.

"Before we relied heavily on desal, Catalina Island used to be the first going into drought restrictions. Now that we rely so heavily on desal production, we're at the back of the pack," Hite said.

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