Sixteen bid for Texas seawater desalination qualification

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) in Texas, USA, has received 16 responses to its request for qualifications issued in April 2012 for a feasibility study of a major seawater desalination project to supply the river basin with a fresh source of water.

Bidders included many experienced desalination engineers like CH2M Hill, Black & Veatch, GHD, Malcolm Pirnie/Arcadia and Seven Seas Water.

James Lee Murphy, GBRA’s executive manager of water resources and utility operations, told D&WR that, given the number and sophistication of the responses, it was anticipated that they would be reviewed over the next two months and narrowed down to 3-6 firms. These would be interviewed and selected by mid-late January 2013.

Seawater desalination projects are not included among recommended strategies in the Texas State Water Plan, but are listed in the category of “requiring further study and funding,” with actual development as far off as 2060. Data from the Texas Water Development Board indicate that about 44 desalination plants have been built for public water supplies in Texas, but none using seawater.

WE “Bill” West Jr, GBRA general manager, was quoted earlier this year as saying, “If the droughts of recent years have taught us anything, they should have taught us that shelving seawater desalination in the state water plan for the next 50 years is absolute folly.”

GBRA is therefore leading the effort to commission the feasibility study, led by Dr Les Shephard, director of the Sustainable Energy Research Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“We have to answer all the key questions about such a project,” West said. “First, can it be done? Second, how much will it cost? Third, where should it be located? Fourth, what are the possible environmental impacts and how can they be dealt with?”