SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

The City of Santa Barbara continues to move forward with plans to restart the desalination plant.

The plant hasn't been operational for more than two decades but even without water flowing through the pipes, it needs maintenance.

"We've been paying about $100,000 a year to keep the facility in a state of hibernation," said Joshua Haggmark, the acting water resources manager.

There isn't significant rainfall in the future, which means it's time to wake it up.

"That's why we want to get that question answered now. What size do we need and what's a fresh look at the cost," said Haggmark.

To calculate those numbers, Santa Barbara and its newest partner the Montecito Water District, have chosen a consultant.

On Tuesday, three firms presented the proposals for predesign. Carollo, RBF and SPI laid out pathways to restart the desal facility, and Carollo Engineers was chosen.

However, the city council still needs to approve the contract. That could happen at the May 6 meeting.

The cost for the predesign work would be around $750,000.

The company will figure out what size the upgraded plant will need to be, what some options are for new technology and how the city could save energy at the facility known to use a lot.

Carollo's final report should come out by September.

"When you put that in context with the expense of the facility, we're talking $20+ million facility, that's completely reasonable and within the parameters of a normal preliminary design," said Haggmark.

If the rain clouds continue to stay away, construction on the plant could start by April 2015 and it could be up and running by the summer of 2016.