More and more, water agencies in the United States and abroad are considering adding desalinated water as part of their water portfolios. At this moment in time, the development of the technology, financing, and public support necessary to support the creation of desalinated water supplies has progressed into a viable option for a number of municipal water agencies across the country. In this issue of Municipal Water Leader magazine, we look at how water managers have incorporated desalinated seawater and brackish groundwater water supplies in the United States and Israel.
In our cover interview, we talk with El Paso Water’s John Balliew, who oversees the world’s largest brackish desalination plant. With freshwater supplies limited to the Rio Grande and some groundwater, the city has successfully invested and developed an abundance of brackish groundwater. Most importantly, for El Paso, the incorporation of desalinated brackish groundwater makes fiscal sense. Mr. Balliew states, “If viewed from a triplebottom-line approach, the cost of the desalination plant is very similar to that of a surface water treatment plant.”
We also look at the process of incorporating of desalinated water supplies into municipal portfolios and the science underlying it. Joshua Haggmark discusses his city’s efforts to restart its seawater desalination facility this year. Santa Barbara has not benefited from the abundant rain to the same extent as other cities in California have this year. The restart of its desal facility, which was borne in the drought of the late 1980s, is significant in that it addresses a current need for increased supplies in a city still reeling from drought and could pave the way for a more reliable supply over the long term. In addition, two veterans of Texas desalination, Jorge Arroyo and Ray Longoria, weigh in on the seawater and brackish groundwater opportunities in the state. We also learn about the latest science on the quantification of brackish groundwater from U.S. Geological Society’s Jennifer Stanton and National Ground Water Association Director of Science and Technology Dr. Bill Alley.
Israel has been at the forefront of the development of desalination technology and adoption. We talk to Professor Sharon Megdal, director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona, about Israel’s rapid path to a desalination-centric water portfolio. Photos of desalination plants from her many trips to Israel comprise the visuals for our stories on Israel. Professor Megdal also connected us to Abraham Tenne, the former director of the desalination division of the Israeli Water Authority. Mr. Tenne provides some background on why desalination has been such a success in the country.
We hope this issue of Municipal Water Leader helps to round out your understanding of the role desalination can play in municipal water supplies.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com