To its benefit, desal is a solution that brings new water into the state’s water portfolio, unlike reuse and conservation – consider desal technology paired with the more than 2.7 billion acre-feet of brackish groundwater that the Texas Water Development Board says currently exists in Texas’ aquifers.

Projects Across Texas

Desal is not new to Texas. There are currently around 109 desalination facilities in the state, says Michael Irlbeck, Director of Business Development for ">NRS Consulting Engineers. Forty-four of those have a capacity greater than 250 million gallons per day – totaling 120 million gallons per day collectively.

“Our first plant in Texas was in 1981,” he says. “Desalination is a good way to diversify our water supply portfolio and insulate ourselves from drought.”

NRS specializes in water projects and has extensive experience in building desalination plants.

Just this year, NRS helped the ">North Alamo Water Supply Corp. (NAWSC) finish construction on the 2.5 million gallon per day Donna Brackish Desalination Facility for in Donna, Texas, five months ahead of schedule and within budget. It’s also the fifth brackish groundwater reverse osmosis plant NAWSC now operates.

“One of the projects we’ve been recognized for is the Southmost Regional Water Authority [in Brownsville, Texas –] a large municipality in south Texas,” Irlbeck says. “In 2000 they were 100% reliant on the Rio Grande River surface water. They had a bad drought and the river dried up, so they turned to us in 2001 to diversify their water supply. We began designing and overseeing construction of a 7.5 million gallon per day brackish groundwater desalination plant. We commissioned that facility in 2004 and it provides about 25% of their total water supply today. In fact, we’re expanding it right now.”

The largest brackish water desalination facility in Texas today is the Kay Bailey Hutchison (KBH) brackish groundwater desalination plant located in El Paso, with a capacity of 27.5 million gallons of water per day.

While desalinating brackish water may be a promising short-term solution, seawater desalination could be a longer-term one.

Turning Seaward