Smack dab in the middle of Austin and San Antonio are acres of land that sit upon unusable groundwater. The Texas Land Office purchased the area eight years ago with hopes of building a desalination plant.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson says the land, which is located on the eastside of Interstate-35 about 2,000 acres just north of New Braunfels, is a corridor for growth.
“The bigger question is how much water is there and how long will it last?” Patterson said. “It needs to last 40 to 50 years to make this economic.”
The land office has hired two engineering firms to help answer those questions. Patterson estimates the study alone will cost upwards of $200,000, but will show if desalinating the brackish water is feasible.
“It’s nice to help solve the water problem, but we look upon this and everything I do at the land office as a fiduciary for the permanent school fund, [with a focus] on making money,” Patterson said.
The money for the plant could come from a variety of sources, including the permanent school fund, infrastructure dollars and private investors.
State Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio said such partnerships will be the key to securing the state's water future.
“I think the state needs to do a project from 10,000 feet above, look at all of the different assets we have on the ground,” he said.
The cost to build the desalination plant is estimated anywhere from $50 to $100 million.