The thirsty and fast growing City of San Antonio this week will add an entirely new water supply, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The eight year dream of removing the salt from the brackish deep Carrizo-Willcox Aquifer south of the city will pay dividends when what is on line to become the largest water desalination plant in the state opens on Friday.
Anne Hayden of the San Antonio Water System says at the start, the plant will push 12 million gallons a day of desalinated water to your kitchen and bathroom.
That is not a lot, compared to the 250 million gallons a day that the city's uses, but she says it is a good start toward true water security.
"As we need it, we will be able to expand this plant," she said. "We have the site, we have the wells in place, we just need to expand the plant to meet our needs in the future."
The plant uses a large scale and sophisticated 'reverse osmosis' system to push the brackish water through super fine membranes, which leaves the brine behind. She says the brine will be returned to the underground Aquifer, but there are projects in place to come up with uses for it.
The key behind the desalination plant, Hayden says, is that it is exempt from all drought restrictions, so no mandatory cutbacks of desalinated water during times of drought.
"It is drought proof, it won't be subject to the restrictions under drought that we have with the Edwards," she said.
In addition, water in an underground aquifer cannot evaporate like water in an above ground reservoir, and, since it is brackish and not good for agriculture or for drinking, a federal judge cannot order the City to preserve it for blind salamanders and other endangered species, which has been a major problem facing the Edwards Aquifer.
Hayden says by the time the water gets to your home, it won't taste salty, and it will be usable for all other uses of tap water, from cleaning to watering lawns to drinking, bathing, and giving to pets.
"You won't really notice a taste or difference, and it is going to taste just like the other waters, and will blend and go throughout the city."
She says this is more efficient than trying to desalinate ocean water, because a pipeline won't have to be built to the Gulf Coast. The new facility is already tied in to the SAWS system.
SAWS has been gradually adding water sources to deal with the region's growing population, the increasing danger of droughts, and continued threats to the Edwards Aquifer.
SAWS has a unique 'water bank' in place near the desalination plant, which is called H2Oak. The bank preserves the water the city has permits to remove from the Edwards Aquifer but doesn't use during a given permitting period.
SAWS is also beginning construction of a pipeline to Central Texas to pipe in water from an underground Aquifer west of Bryan. All of these measures are geared toward prevent a potential lack of water from hindering economic development as the region grows over the coming several decades.