The San Diego County Water Authority has commissioned a pilot seawater desalination system located at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Engineering and consulting firm Michael Baker International will design, build and operate the facility, which will be used to compare the merits of two different ocean water intake approaches over a one-year period: one that gathers water using a screen near the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and another that collects water below the seafloor.

Announcing the contract last week, the company said that these tests will help identify the most feasible, cost-effective and environmentally sensitive way to implement a desalination intake at the base that is consistent with new state regulations.

“Michael Baker’s work on this initiative could pave the way for possible development of a full-scale water treatment facility here in the years to come,” explained Bob Schlesinger, San Diego office executive for the company. “The San Diego County Water Authority has said that a potential desalination project at Camp Pendleton could serve as a long-term water supply option for the region.”

Michael Baker’s role in the Camp Pendleton Intake Testing Program includes environmental permitting, design, construction, operation, and collection and analysis of data during the testing period.

Subsequently, the company will prepare a report with a projected cost analysis for operation of a full-scale plant and then decommission and remove the pilot facility.