Editor’s note: This article, off the Business Wire, provides a look at how abundant electricity and a salty aquifer can solve the water shortage in at least one of the western states.
City, state, and SAWS officials broke ground on July 2, 2014 on what will become the largest inland desalination plant in the country. Construction is beginning on the plant, which will desalinate groundwater from deep in the Wilcox Aquifer in southern Bexar County.
“Desalination is another tool in the portfolio that we are using to serve San Antonio,” said SAWS CEO and President Robert R. Puente. “There are ‘oceans’ of brackish water under our feet unaffected by temporary weather conditions, so this is a supply that will be there for us even in drought.”
San Antonio’s desalination plant, which opens in 2016, will produce 12 million gallons per day, water for an additional 40,000 families. Additional phases to the plant are scheduled for 2021 and 2026. When complete, the plant will produce 30 million gallons per day and be the largest inland desalination plant in the nation.
“This is another step in the right direction toward adding new supplies for San Antonio’s future,” said SAWS Board Chairman Berto Guerra, Jr. “We can access this new source of water right below our feet and add additional phases of desalination as we need them.”
Desalination pushes the salty water through reverse osmosis membranes with holes that are 1/100,000 the diameter of a human hair, removing 97% of the salts and minerals.
Once treated, the water will taste the same as Edwards Aquifer water and will be blended with water in the rest of the SAWS system. A major water pipeline will be built to help deliver the water from southern Bexar County to the western part of the city.
The construction of Phase 1 of the project will be managed by Zachry/Parsons, who will be responsible for building the plant on time and within budget.
Cost for Phase 1 of the project will be $192.7 million. Total cost of all three phases will be $411 million. As the project is part of the State Water Plan, SAWS has accessed over $100 million in low interest loans from the Texas Water Development Board to help offset some of these costs.
San Antonio Water System