Slant Well to Address Water Shortage Without Harming Environment

By Valerie King; National Driller*

History is unfolding along the coast of California, according to Dennis Williams, president of GEOSCIENCE Support Services Inc.

His groundwater consulting firm has designed something like 1,000 municipal water supply wells in almost 40 years. But those were typical wells, vertical wells. What he’s working on now he’s only done once before.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” he said, alluding to a well technology his firm is designing for California’s Monterey Peninsula. It’s called a slant well or subsurface intake, and while the technology has been used in Europe and tested in the United States, he says it’s still a very rare method.

“The evolution of the subsurface slant well technology,” as Williams calls it, is an outcome of California state regulators and environmental groups that prefer an environmentally friendly approach to desalination. Their goal is to avoid harming marine life like more traditional ocean pipelines tend to.

The slant well will be drilled close to the coastline at a diagonal and collect enough ocean water to produce about 100 million gallons of drinkable water daily.

That’s what California American Water hopes, according to Rich Svindland, vice president of engineering. California American Water is a subsidiary of American Water Works Company Inc., the largest publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility company. They proposed the idea after California ordered reductions to the Monterey Peninsula’s current water sources, a local river and aquifer that are expected to lose more than half of their current supply in the next decade.

“The idea is that we’re trying to launch a well field out under the ocean floor to basically ensure that we capture ocean water as opposed to inland ground freshwater,” Svindland said. The local groundwater basin he’s referring to is protected and cannot be exported to residents across the peninsula.

*This article was originally published in National Driller, Copyright 2014.  The entire article can be found at National Driller.

New Water Supply for Monterey Peninsula

California American Water is concerned about the communities on the Monterey Peninsula; they are hard at work, developing new water sources with the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project.

A three-part solution will supply water to all the communities on the Monterey Peninsula, protecting the natural resources of the Carmel River and providing future protection from drought.

  1. A desalination plant located in Marina, will provide water for residents on the Monterey Peninsula.
  2. Expanded underground water storage will keep excess winter water underground. This reserve will act as an additional source for our communities.
  3. A replenished groundwater supply with highly treated recycled water will make even more water available for residents and businesses.

The need to develop a sustainable, drought-proof water supply for the Monterey Peninsula is as urgent as ever.

Because of state and court-ordered reductions to the community’s primary sources of water, the Carmel River and the Seaside Aquifer, a new water project for the Peninsula must be permitted and constructed without further delay.

The existing supply is being ramped down over the next decade to less than half of what is today.

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Salinas Valley Worried about Desal Plans

California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where up to 60 percent of the vegetables and leafy greens are grown for the nation.

The water company, which serves about 100,000 people on the Monterey Peninsula, was ordered 20 years ago to reduce using their source of water from the Carmel River by 60 percent by 2016.
Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, commented, “They’re searching frantically to find an alternative source. Unfortunately, they have had twenty years to do that and the voters haven’t really been necessarily sympathetic and voted for their particular projects when proposed.”
“So, now we are to the point of looking at a desalination plant that is supposedly going to replace all that water from the Carmel River,” Groot said. “There are a number of issues there as well—not only the cost—but the energy footprint and a number of other things that really have some of the people here quite concerned right now.”
“The test well for the proposed desal plant may be fairy close to the shoreline,” Groot said, “but any water taken from that well could impact the Salinas Valley. I think our biggest concern is what is that cone of depression, which is a scientific term for the influence that a source water intake has in a particular area. And because of the confluence between the lower aquifer, the Salinas Valley Basin, and the shallow aquifer from which they propose to take the water, we really don’t know how large a cone of influence is going to be felt. And since the actual aquifer goes offshore quite a distance, there is potential for some sort of impact there.”
“We’ve been involved in the whole CPUC process for the Public Utilities Commission trying to insert our particular viewpoints into the process” Groot explained, “so that everyone is fully aware of the ramifications of placing the source water intakes over the aquifer. And what if pumping is determined to cause harm to source water that includes Salinas Valley, either brackish or fresh water?”