Desalination and Long-Haul Water Transfer as a Water Supply for Dallas, Texas: A Case Study of the Energy-Water Nexus in Texas

Ashlynn S. Stillwell, Carey W. King, Michael E. Webber

Abstract


As existing water supplies become increasingly strained in some locations, water planners turn to alternative options to quench cities’ thirst. Among these options for inland cities is desalination of seawater or brackish groundwater with long-haul water transfer. Desalination using reverse osmosis membranes is the most common technology in use, yet high pressures required for operation make desalination an energy-intensive water supply option. The subsequent conveyance of desalinated water through long-haul pipelines also requires large amounts of energy. To analyze desalination and long-haul transfer as a drinking water supply, Dallas, Texas, was chosen as a test-bed with two scenarios: seawater desalination near Houston and brackish groundwater desalination near Abilene, both with long-haul transfer of desalinated water to Dallas. Combining the energy requirements for long-distance pumping with the energy demands for desalination, we estimate that desalination and long-haul transfer is nine to 23 times more energy-intensive per unit of water than conventional treatment of local surface water sources, an increase of 230 to 630 MWh/d for 20 million gal (75,700 m3). These results suggest that desalination and long-haul transfer as a water supply for Dallas is less sustainable, based on energy consumption, than use of local surface water sources or water conservation.

Keywords


desalination, long-haul transfer, energy, water

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Texas Water Journal

The Texas Water Journal is an online, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the timely consideration of Texas water resources management, research, and policy issues from a multidisciplinary perspective that integrates science, engineering, law, planning, and other disciplines. It also provides updates on key state legislation and policy changes by Texas administrative agencies. The journal is published by the Texas Water Journal, a nonprofit organization, in cooperation with the Texas Water Resources Institute, part of Texas A&M AgriLife.

ISSN 2160-5319
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