The San Antonio Water System today broke ground on the largest inland water desalination plant in the country, as local officials continue to diversify the city's sources of water, Newsradio 1200 WOAI news reports.
"Desalination is another toll in the portfolio that we are using to serve San Antonio," SAWS CEO Robert Puente said. There are oceans of brackish water under our feet unaffected by temporary weather conditions, so this is a supply that will be there for us even in drought."
The plant will produce 12 million gallons per day of fresh drinking water, by using reverse osmosis membranes to remove 97% of the salt and minerals in the brackish Carrizo Aquifer.
SAWS Chairman Beto Guerra says projects like this one are what separates San Antonio from drinking its own sewage, like is currently happening in Wichita falls.
"People ask me, how are you able, as a city, when everyone else is drying up, to still be in State Two water restrictions," Guerra said.
One of the main reasons is the Twin Oaks Water Storage and Recovery Facility, the underground 'water bank' where SAWS stores enough water for more than two years. The desal plant will be located on the same property in Elmendorf, southeast of San Antonio, where the Facility is located.
Councilman Ron Nirenberg says this project is for today, and for tomorrow.
"What we are doing is making sure that my children and your grandchildren will have water in abundance at an affordable rate," Nirenberg said.
The water will taste identical to Edwards Aquifer water and will be blended with water in the rest of the SAWS system.
Two additional phases of the desal plant will be built over the coming decade, with a total cost of $411 million.
Officials say the brackish aquifer is the best source for this technology because the salty water in there now is of no use to farmers or industry, and is too salty to be the habitat for protected salamanders, so it is not under the control of any federal authorities. Since it is an underground aquifer, it also does not evaporate, like the Highland Lakes do.