Company hopes to build seawater desalination plant along coast; Port Aransas mayor not convinced

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter

PORT ARANSAS, Texas - Desalination water plants are not new to Texas. In fact, the state has 46 desalination plants that convert brackish water to useable water for cities, according to the Texas Water Development Board. What Texas doesn't have is a seawater desalination plant on the coast that would have the capacity to convert 60 million gallons of seawater a day for city use. Some argue that this is the only drought-proof water solution.

From 2010 to 2015, most of South Texas suffered from a drought. That's why companies have been researching drought-proof solutions for the past 15 years.

Seven Seas Water, a private company, hopes to build a seawater desalination plant on the coast in the city of Port Aransas.

The company already has 16 seawater desalination plants across the globe and is planning to build one on Harbor Island in Port Aransas.

Richard Whiting, vice president of business development for Seven Seas Water, said it's the only drought-proof solution, promising better results than the already-existing inland desalination plants across Texas. 

“So that's groundwater; eventually that does have to be replenished by rainwater and through the aquifers, where seawater, of course, is, for all intents and purposes, unlimited," Whiting said.

The company is already leasing land on Harbor Island from a private foundation. For the next 18 months, they will be working on getting their permits through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers.

If green lighted, the company hopes to sell the water to the city of Corpus Christi and surrounding areas, even with the possibility of selling to San Antonio in the far future. The plant would be designed to convert 20 million to 60 million gallons of seawater for municipal use a day. If all permitting is approved and Corpus Christi bites on a water sale, Seven Seas hopes to be built and running in 2 1/2 years.

How Do Sea Water Desalination Plants Work? Check out this YouTube video by Seven Seas Water Explaining:

However, some people in the city of Port Aransas are not happy about the plant because they fear it will hurt the marine life that lives in their channels, which in turn may hurt their fishing industry.

WATCH: Port Aransas mayor concerned seawater desalination plant would hurt local economy

Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan said tourism and fishing are the lifeblood of the city's economy.

“If you harm our ecosystem and our marine life, then you kill our town,” Bujan said.

Seven Seas Water disagrees, saying the company has done its research.

“We own 16 already,” Whiting said. “We would already be in trouble if there were any ecological issues with any of our plants.”

Whiting said they are confident that putting one of their desalination plants on Harbor Island would not harm the marine life. He says they are currently discussing their preplanning of the plant with the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and the Texas A&M University Harte Research Institute in Corpus Christi to prevent any damage to the coastal environment.

Whiting said the company has the research to prove it -- an eight-year ecological study on its seawater desalination plant in Sydney, Australia.

“They've just released a study after eight years of operations in conclusion that the discharge of brine back into the ocean has had minimal impact on the marine life there,” Whiting said.

Despite the research and the companies precautionary measures taken to prevent from harming the environment. However, Bujan isn't convinced. He said his main concern is protecting his city, which means protecting the marine life that thrives around it.

“If you put an intake in there, I don't see how you can prevent killing some of that life. That's harmful to our business, which is tourism businesses based on fishing and the beach,” Bujan said.

Copyright 2018 by KSAT - All rights reserved.