The benefits and costs of desalination will be reviewed and discussed in a joint committee series of public hearings in the Texas Legislature. Desalination is the process of removing salt from ocean water or groundwater. By performing this action, it will be possible to use water from the sea for irrigation, industrial use and even human consumption.

“This is the new horizon in Texas,” Rep. Lyle Larson said, in reference to the estimated three billion acre-feet of saltwater in Texas. “There is so much growth opportunity.”

Texas has access to about 367 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. However, it still relies on surface water and groundwater for irrigation and drinking. For those and other reasons, Larson feels that the state needs to invest in desalination.

“Water remains a top priority for the Texas House because it remains critical to the Texas economy and our quality of life,” House Speaker Joe Straus said. Though no one from the Texas Panhandle/South Plains delegation serves on the 12-member desalination panel, some said they are confident that the committee’s work will make recommendations the Legislature can address next year.

In addition, the population in Texas is projected to grow from 26 million people this year to 40 million by 2060. To prepare for such projected growth, in last year’s session state lawmakers overwhelming approved a bill that, with subsequent voter approval in the fall, allows the Legislature to withdraw $2 billion from the rainy day fund to begin funding a $53 billion, 50-year water plan.

Although desalination is considered an expensive practice, it is hoped that the cost will go down over time, as the process starts becoming more efficient. The public hearings on desalination should also educate the public about the critical role this practice can play in helping the state meet its future water needs.