Global water experts meeting in San Diego - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Global water experts meeting in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Water experts from around the world are in San Diego for a six day conference aimed at easing water shortages. Attendees will have a chance to tour the nearly complete desalination plant in Carlsbad that is set to start supplying fresh drinking water later this year using water from the Pacific Ocean. 

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Neil Palmer, who oversees Australia's desalination facilities, says that "10 years ago, the government built a desalination plant and now it's got a second plant and half of Perth's water comes from desalination."

The project in Carlsbad is similar to the Australian operation, which will process 100 million gallons of salt water a day. The facility in Carlsbad will be able to produce about 10 percent of the area's water. The facility is scheduled to open later this year, however, the facility won't come without some controversy over the environmental impact and its cost.

"One plant has been operating eight years with 100 percent flow into an enclosed bay. If ever there was going to be an impact from desalination on the environment this would be it. It's had no impact on the environment," says Palmer. "The cost, including capital cost, works out to about $7 per week, per household. That's two cups of coffee."

The facility in Carlsbad is expected to draw a lot of attention once it opens. If successful, some experts say it could inspire similar projects statewide.

"It’s not the total answer, but it's part of it because it doesn't matter what happens with the water, you can always get water from the sea," says Palmer.

This week's conference starts Monday with opening remarks from the mayor. The conference is being held at the San Diego Convention Center. 

The event is the 15th meeting of the Desalination Congress and San Diego's second time hosting the event.

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