Water Design-Build Council Blog

Project Spotlight: Charnock Well Field Restoration

Posted by Admin on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 @ 09:03 AM

CharnockThe Santa Monica Water Treatment Plant is approximately 2 miles from the Santa Monica City limits, and is owned by the City. The plant serves a population of 89,736. Through a progressive design-build procurement process, Water Design Build Council member Black & Veatch was selected as the contractor for a project to provide engineering, design, procurement, construction and commissioning services for both the Charnock Treatment Unit and the Santa Monica Water Treatment Plant.

The Problem

Many utilities throughout the United States are increasingly facing limited fresh water supplies, mixed and/or emerging contaminants, and tighter regulations. With its Charnock Well Field closed for more than a decade due to contamination and the ink finally dry on settlements to fund a restoration project on the facilities, the City of Santa Monica faced an urgent need to return closer to water self-sufficiency. Limitations on water supplies that could be delivered to Southern California had Santa Monica’s project on the fast track to re-establish a sustainable water supply. The complex and changing regulatory environment also required an approach that would allow for progress even as specific details were being finalized.

Project Delivery Selection

Already familiar with the use of design-build (DB) through its experience on other municipal projects, the City chose a modification of the DB approach. In deciding to use Progressive Design-Build, the City was able to select the design-builder based both on qualifications and approach to problem-solving, with an open-book cost estimate for construction to be made during the 30 to 60 percent phase of design. One benefit of this approach was the collaborative relationship between the city and the design-builder to navigate the challenges of building the treatment facilities, such as additional requirements that might come from DPH review.


Black & Veatch’s approach to progressive design-build enabled the City of Santa Monica to navigate numerous emerging issues facing the project.  As the City began to develop a project procurement plan, restrictions on importing water to southern California were being considered and/or implemented. It therefore became urgent for the City to quickly restore its sustainable groundwater supply. The City selection of a progressive design-build approach for design and construction of the water treatment infrastructure, offered flexibility in implementing a technical solution in a complex regulatory setting while providing a competitive price with an aggressive schedule. 

The progressive design-build approach also helped the City manage the approval of a treatment facility to remove a mixture of water quality contaminants – especially those of public health concern (e.g., MTBE) – which requires more time, communication, and planning as well as increased collaboration among the owner, the design-builder, and regulatory agencies.

Black & Veatch’s services included engineering, design, procurement, construction and commissioning services for both the Charnock Treatment Unit and the Santa Monica Water Treatment Plant.  The project incorporated a 3,750 g.p.m. wellhead treatment plant for MTBE and TBA removal at the Charnock well field; and a 7,000 g.p.m. treatment plant at the Arcadia site for softening, radionuclide removal, iron and manganese removal, and volatile organics removal.

With the City and Black & Veatch working collaboratively to provide rapid response at all levels to expedite restoration of the well field, the progressive design-build method allowed a 20-month project schedule to be met.

This design-build model also allowed the owner to transfer design risk to the contractor and reduced the schedule by overlapping design and construction phases while bringing continuous value engineering and constructability analysis. With flexibility throughout, the method provided the owner with a single point of contact and key guarantees, including quality assurance and quality control.

In December 2010, the city of Santa Monica restored the use of its valuable groundwater supply with the successful startup of the Charnock Well Field Restoration Project (CWRP). With the reopening the well field, the city now produces 70 percent of its water supply needs and is moving toward its 2020 goal of 100 percent self-sufficiency.

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Topics: Black & Veatch