The Joint Interim
to Study Water Desalination held a public hearing on the topic of water desalination in Wichita Falls. The demand for water continues to grow across Texas.
Wichita Falls was the last step on a statewide meeting tour that was designed to get a better ideas, facts and information on water desalination. Desalination is the removal of the majority of salt from salty water.
The meeting in Wichita Falls focused on brackish groundwater. It's not water you could use or drink without the desalination process.
Brackish ground water is underground water found in aquifers that has elevated levels of salt and other harsh minerals. Texas aquifers hold 2.7 billion acre-feet of this type of water, according to the Texas Desalination Association. The brackish groundwater offers a new source of a largely ignored resource, according to the
The new resource is being look toward as a future reliable water source, because of the growing population. It is projected that by 2060 the population of Texas will increase by more than 14 million people, according to the
Water is also estimated to increase by 70-percent. In order to meet those needs, lawmakers are looking for the new solution.
El Paso is the current site of the world's largest desalination plant. The facility produces more than 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily, according to the
. Now, plants like that, could be the answer for water shortages across the state.
Government officials held public meetings in Austin, Corpus Christi, and Wichita Falls. They said part of the reason they chose this part of Texas, is because of the drought conditions. The desalination could be a drought-proof solution, according to the TDA website.
"One of the things everyone knows, is the tremendous challenges Wichita Falls, in particular, is having with our water supply, said Craig Estes, Texas Senator"
Texas lawmakers are looking toward desalination as being a long term answer across Texas.
"Because of that, we wanted to focus on Wichita Falls situation, and maybe desalination would be part of the future in solving our water problems," Estes said.
Lawmakers approved a bill in the fall of 2013 that would allow them to withdraw $2 billion from the rainy day fund to begin a $53 billion, 50 year water plan. Desalination is a big part of that.
Wichita Falls isn't the only Texas City suffering drought conditions, but it is the last stop in three statewide public hearings on desalination. Local government officials thought there could be good and bad things about desalination.
"I think the brackish groundwater development is a viable option," said Russell Schrieber, Wichita Falls Director of Public Works."I think for the city it's the price and, obviously, the disposal of that reject water that are the biggest obstacles locally."
"Desalination in my viewpoint, it's a very limited view point, is critical for the state of Texas," said Wichita Falls Mayor, Glenn Barham. "It's something that's going to have to be done on a very large scale."
But the officials said they are glad to have the state taking a step forward in Texas water problems.
"I'm excited to see the state of Texas stepping up to the plate and taking care of water issues that are soon to come," Barham said.
The next step for lawmakers is to take a tour of the desalination plants in El Paso and Brownsville. The group will look to propose new legislation during their next session, according to Estes.