State considers desalination plant in Comal County

Goal is to tap new water source


COMAL COUNTY, Texas – It is a step toward keeping Texas from drying up: the creation of another desalination plant to tap brackish water.

It may not look like much now, but a 2,000-acre plot of undeveloped land in Comal County could open the gate to a new water source, where one solution to Texas' dwindling supply might just blossom.

"It is here," said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. "We have this tract and we know there's water there."

The land being considered for the desalination plant is located on either side of Interstate 35, just north of New Braunfels. The state hopes to tap an aquifer 1,400 to 2,000 feet below ground, which is well below the fresh-water Edwards Aquifer.

But the deeper source is brackish, which means it contains saline and would have to be processed at a desalination plant, similar to the desalination plant that began drilling in South Bexar County in March.

Before ground is broken, the state is conducting an investigation to answer questions.

"How much water is there? How long would it last and how difficult and energy-intensive is it to treat?" said Patterson.

The treated water could boost supplies on a different kind of "rainy day," when the soggy sights we saw Tuesday are all dried up.

"There's more than enough brackish water in Texas to satisfy our current need for over 100 years," Patterson said. "Its just expensive to treat."

Expensive is a relative term, adds Patterson, when you're talking about the one thing we can't live without.

Still, he says there is no dollar amount just yet for how much the project could cost. Patterson says desalination plants usually start around $40 million.

The state's investigation into the potential new water source should take several more months.

It is also working to find out whether the new supply would be subject to restrictions, like the Edwards Aquifer.

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