Water Desalination Grant Program

 The Continuous Application Process has been suspended, and DWR is not accepting applications at this time.

Desalination Grant Program Background

DWR provides grants to local agencies for the planning, design, and construction of projects to desalinate naturally-occurring brackish and ocean water for potable water supply. It also provides grants for pilot, demonstration, and research projects. Grant funding is from Proposition 50 (2004) and Proposition 1 (2014).  As of January 2021, over $127 million in grants ranging from $45,000 to $10,000,000 have been awarded to 70 projects.

Between 2005 and March 2018, DWR conducted four rounds of grant funding.  After the fourth round, the program was modified to a Continuous Application Process (CAP), which enables applicants to submit projects at any time when grant funds are available.  DWR then reviews applications and awards grants in batches.

Grant Application Process

The rules and procedures for funding vary depending on funding source, availability of funds, and DWR priorities at the time of funding.  Each round of funding generally starts with the drafting of a Proposal Solicitation Package (PSP), which contains detailed grant funding program rules and procedures for that round of funding.

The PSP has a description of types of agencies that can apply, types of projects that can be funded, instructions for application, the proposal review process, and the criteria for proposal selection for funding. The draft PSP is issued for public comment. After adoption of a final PSP, the application period begins. Applications received by the deadline are reviewed according to the selection criteria, and a draft list of proposals recommended for grant funding is released for public comment. Subsequently, approved projects are awarded funding.

DWR uses an online application tool called GRanTS. An applicant must register to establish an account in GRanTS. Detailed procedures are described in the PSP applicable to the current round of funding.

Applicants of awarded projects must enter into a Funding Agreement (contract). Grant disbursements generally occur after costs are incurred and are provided after review of expense documentation provided by the grantee with invoices. After project completion, there may be annual reporting for up to five years to describe briefly the results of the project.

Rounds of Funding

The first three funding rounds used funds authorized by Proposition 50. The fourth round and subsequent Continuous Application Process used funds from Proposition 1 and 50. The Continuous Application Process has been suspended, and DWR is not accepting applications at this time. Additional information can be found below:

Sources of Funds

Proposition 50

In November 2002, California voters passed Proposition 50, the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002 (incorporated into Division 26.5 of the California Water Code, beginning with section 79500). Section 79545(a) in Chapter 6 provided $50 million for grants for desalination of ocean or brackish water. Sections 79547 and 79547.2 in Chapter 6 have other conditions that apply to this funding. Subsequent to passage of Proposition 50, the California State Legislature passed “trailer bills” that contain additional requirements for implementation of Proposition 50.

Proposition 50, as passed by voters

Division 26.5 of the California Water Code, including trailer bill sections.

Proposition 1

In November 2014, California voters passed Proposition 1, a part of which is the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (California Water Code, Division 26.7, Section 79700 et seq.). Chapter 9 of Proposition 1 (the proper legal reference is Chapter 9 of Division 26.7 of the Water Code, Sections 79765-79768) provides $725 million for grants/loans for water recycling and advanced treatment, including desalination projects. DWR’s Water Desalination Grant Program will incorporate the Proposition 1 desalination elements in Section 79765(b), (d), and (f). The portion of funds allocated to desalination is $100 million, 7 percent of which is reserved for bonds and program administration. Proposition 1 funding of desalination shall be administered consistent with Proposition 50 desalination programs administered pursuant to sections 79545 and 79547.2 of the Water Code. These funds will be appropriated over several years. The current plan for budgeting these funds is shown in the following table.

Bond 100,000,000 Voter approved General Obligation Bond
Bond Expense (2%) 2,000,000 State Agency Bond Financing Costs
Program Allocation 98,000,000 Programmatic Implementation Funding
Program Administration (5%) 4,900,000 Programmatic Administrative Costs
Available for Grants 93,100,000 Available for Grant Recipients
Program Round 4 93,100,000 Fiscal Year (FY) 15/16 and FY 18/19 appropriation

 Proposition 1 as passed by voters

Division 26.7 of the Water Code, including any additions by later legislation.

Newsletters and Subscriptions

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Contact Us

If you need any additional information, please contact DWR’s Water Recycling and Desalination Section.

Sean Sou, Program Lead,
Sean.Sou@water.ca.gov | (916) 902-7722

Jennifer Pulido
Jennifer.Pulido@water.ca.gov | (916) 902-7185

Updates and Public Notices

Go Golden check presentation to the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District.

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Graphic displaying Go Golden project information in California in 2023

In February 2023, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) launched the Go Golden Initiative to highlight partnerships between the State and local organizations and water agencies to fund bold and innovative projects that strengthen California’s water infrastructure and build community resilience.

DWR celebrated a $7.9 million grant awarded to the Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Agency

As part of ongoing efforts to invest in water resilience programs in communities across California, DWR celebrated a $7.9 million grant awarded to the Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Agency to support groundwater recharge, sustainability planning, and water management.