SAWS Begins Work on $300M Desalination Plant in Bexar County

March 19, 2014 by Taylor Allen

San Antonio takes a proactive approach to water conservation and education.

Desalination Map
Desalination Map

It comes as no surprise to a native Texan to see public fountains dry and lawns parched in summer months. San Antonio is a place where drought is inevitable and water restrictions are to be expected.  The primary source of water for the city, the Edwards Aquifer, is regulated to prevent over pumping of water and to protect the endangered salamanders that call it home.  Being one of the fastest growing metros in the country has put additional strain on this limited resource.  These factors have made San Antonio become proactive with water conservation and education; ” …our population has grown 67% over the past 20 years, but we’re using the same amount of water,” says Esther Harrah, SAWS Manager of Desalination Engineering.  In addition to conservation, long term planning is key.  In order to prepare for increasing population and the regulated use of the Edwards Aquifer, SAWS 2012 Water Management Plan initiated the process of developing another source of water.  The method: desalination of brackish groundwater from the Wilcox Aquifer.

SAWS is working on Phase I of a desalination plant in south Bexar County.  The plant will be co-located with the existing Twin Oaks Aquifer Storage and Recovery site, where SAWS pumps excess water from the Edwards Aquifer during rainy months, and stores it in the Carrizo sand aquifers for use in drier months.

Bexar County Desalination Plant: Phase 1

Desalination Diagram
Desalination Diagram

Phase I is expected to be completed in 2016 and will provide an estimated 11 million gallons of water per day (mgd).  Phase I will include development of the well field and reverse osmosis treatment plant to remove the dissolved salts from the groundwater.  Phase II and III will be complete by 2021 and 2026.  The plant will ultimately supply the city with 27 mgd, enough water to meet San Antonio’s growth demands for the next 50 years.

SAWS selected ZacharyParsons joint venture as the construction manager in December 2012 to provide design and constructability review for the project.  Black & Veatch was awarded the design contract in January 2013.  Total cost for the project is estimated at $297 million.

Written by Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen is a resident of Downtown San Antonio. He graduated from Texas A&M University, and is a practicing civil engineer in San Antonio. He is the Chair of LOOP, Leadership San Antonio Class 42, and is actively involved in ULI.