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State rep pushes desalination plant near Victoria

By Sara Sneath
May 6, 2014 at 12:06 a.m.
Updated May 7, 2014 at 12:07 a.m.


OPERATING PLANT

The largest inland municipal brackish desalination plant in Texas, the Kay Bailey Hutchison desalination plant in El Paso, has a design capacity of about 27.5 million gallons per day (30,800 acre-feet per year) and went into production in August 2007.

Source: Texas Water Development Board

State Rep. Todd Hunter encouraged Victoria elected officials and business owners Tuesday to get involved with finding ways to make water desalination a reality.

In late March, Hunter was named co-chairman of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Water Desalination, which is composed of House and Senate members.

"My goal is to bring it to Texas, and I'd prefer it be in our region," Hunter said.

Victoria would be an ideal location for desalination because of its growing industry, Hunter added.

"All this business activity, you got to have some water," he said.

About two and a half years ago, Kenneth Eller, 68, of Victoria, facilitated a meeting with area municipalities and oil industry representatives to talk seawater desalination.

Only one oil industry representative showed up. For those who did join, the discussion ended with cost.

But a continued need for water and a decrease in desalination technology cost has put seawater desalination back on the table.

"There is a tremendous amount of push right now because we are in a drought. It's going to have to happen because our population has increased in the last few years," said Eller, who is on the Victoria Groundwater Conservation District board of directors.

Eller's involvement with encouraging seawater desalination has been personal, not as a groundwater board member, he said.

The Texas Water Development Board estimates that it costs between $357 to $782 to produce 1 acre-foot of desalinated water from brackish groundwater and between $800 to $1,400 to produce the same amount of desalinated water from seawater.

To facilitate both brackish and seawater desalination projects, Jerry James, director of intergovernmental relations with the city of Victoria, has been working with legislators across the state to write water codes where they are lacking on brackish water and seawater.

"There are regulations that say how much water you can pump out of the ground and still maintain the condition of the aquifer. And what we're looking at is legislative language that would treat brackish groundwater differently than freshwater. Right now, they're treated the same," James said.

There aren't many rules on the books concerning how seawater is treated, he said.

"I think this would be an opportune time for municipals and the industry to marry. Everybody benefits on a project like this," Eller said.

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