By 2050, the Lower Rio Grande Valley will need 184,000 acre-feet of NEW water supplies to satisfy growing demands by residents, businesses, and industry.
The overappropriated Rio Grande cannot meet these demands.
Seawater from the Gulf of Mexico can.
To determine the best methods for desalinating seawater in Texas, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), the Brownsville Public Utilities Board (BPUB), the Port of Brownsville, and NRS Consulting Engineers worked together on a pilot project at the Brownsville Ship Channel. The pilot plant collected and analyzed site-specific data in 2007 and 2008 and determined it is technically feasible to produce drinking water from seawater. The results of that pilot study have been released and the BPUB now proposes to construct a 2.5 MGD demonstration-scale seawater desalination plant and research facility at the Port of Brownsville. The proposed Demonstration Project would have several advantages:
- First, the additional water provided by the demonstration facility will provide nine percent of the total BPUB demand by 2012, further diversifying their water supply sources.
- Next, this phased approach will allow for an evaluation of system performance over several years of operation prior to an investment in full-scale capacity. These data are expected to yield a more efficient overall treatment system design and lower the cost of future expansions as they occur.
- Finally, the demonstration facility will include the capability for continued testing of the latest desalination technologies for this and other future seawater desalination facilities along the Texas coast. Such technologies include applications for pretreatment, energy recovery, sustainable energy supply, and larger (potentially more efficient) membranes.
TWDB and BPUB are working together to secure the public financial assistance to further implement seawater desalination in Texas.