It’s estimated that Texas aquifers hold 2.7 billion acre-feet of brackish groundwater, water that is more salty than fresh water but not as salty as seawater. Texans uses about 16 million gallons of fresh water each year. At that rate, the salty groundwater could sustain the state for more than a century if it can be converted into fresh water.
House Bill 835, filed by state Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, would task the Texas Water Development Board with determining if brackish water can be refined without harming fresh water supplies. The bill would benefit groundwater districts that want to protect their current water users, as well as water developers who don’t want to umderwrite research without insurance that a project will come to fruition.
There are 34 brackish water desalination plants in Texas, according to the Texas Water Development Board,. The largest is an El Paso plant that can produce up to 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily; but San Antonio is preparing a three-phase, $411-million desalination project that will eventually yield up to 30 million gallons daily.
Last session, Texas senators were reluctant to take action, fearing that they would take away regulatory authority from groundwater districts. However, it still isn’t clear that HB 835 would keep brackish water under the jurisdiction of the groundwater conservation districts.