That new hope is brackish or salt water. Salt water in high enough quantities can kill plants, animals and people and so its usefulness is limited. But its supply is abundant deep under the ground in parts of West Texas.
“We’re gonna start looking at treating a lot of brackish groundwater for drinking – making it potable,” said Leroy Goodson, Executive Secretary of the Texas Groundwater Association.
“The withdrawal of groundwater is being depleted pretty fast,” Goodson added. “There’s plenty of brackish groundwater if we could get it treated for a reasonable price.”
That’s the catch. Brackish water can be desalinated but it’s expensive. Goodson says researchers are looking for ways to treat brackish water and make it safe.
Costs have come down over the years to $4 per thousand gallons or sometimes lower. But that’s only the cost of the desalination; it does not include delivery of the potable water or disposal of the leftover salt.
Among the minor aquifers under the South Plains is one called the Dockum. Some of the Dockum is freshwater – some of it is brackish. The Texas Water Development board believes the Dockum could supply more than 400,000 acre feet of water per year.