Everyone’s talking about desalination lately as a source of “new” water here in the southwest. The picture at right is El Paso’s new desalination plant, which opened last week. It’s the largest inland desalination plant in the United States, capable of delivering a substantial fraction of El Paso’s water. In this morning’s Journal, I join the discussion:
To many, desalination looks like an inevitable part of arid New Mexico’s future. The reason: The state’s fresh water supplies are pretty much tapped out. We have probably built our last dam, supplies of fresh groundwater are shrinking and the only fresh water option left is moving water from one use to another.
“New Mexico is a water-limited state,” said Peggy Johnson, a hydrologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology. “We’ve probably outgrown what our fresh water resources can do for us in the long term.”
For a reality check on the enthusiasm, Bruce Thomson offers this:
“These salt brines are really old and are not being recharged,” said Bruce Thomson, head of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program. “So maybe Rio Rancho will have a water supply for 100 years, during which time the community will grow to perhaps five times its current size. After that, they’ll be out of water but with five times the current demand. Then what?”