Saturday, March 07, 2009

"Gold rush" for brackish water underway in New Mexico

There have been 550,000 applications to appropriate deep, "non-potable" water in New Mexico in recent months according to story in the Alamagordo Daily News.

The New Mexico legislature and the state engineer are seeking to take state control of water deeper than 2,500 feet in anticipation of efforts to desalinate brackish water this is in some cases twice as salty as seawater.

In 2007, Sen. Pete Domenici got funding to create the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo [right, photo credit Bur. of Reclamation]. The goals of the Facility are to "to bring down the combined energy costs of pumping brackish water, cleaning it of salt compounds left by prehistoric ocean waters, treating and distributing the groundwater, along with handling the concentrated salt wastes." The cost of new wells is put at $1-2 million each, plus desalination uses lots of energy.

The anticipation that new, cost-effective techniques to desalinate brackish groundwater may be forthcoming may be a major reason so many applications are being filed to appropriate water now. The research facility however is still in start-up mode and no private companies have proposed using the facility so far.

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