August 31, 2008

Arizona Looks to Mexican Water Plant

Arizona's future water needs might be met by a planned desalination plant in Mexico, officials say.

The Arizona Republic reported Sunday that officials are studying the idea of importing filtered ocean water from a desalination plant planned for Puerto Penasco, Mexico, 60 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The state could get billions of gallons a year from the Mexican plant, the report said. Some Arizona water managers say the state could team with Puerto Penasco to build a larger plant than is already planned.

"Desalinated ocean water is the future sustainable source," Herb Guenther, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said. "It's only logical that eventually we'll migrate toward it. We don't need interim supplies now. We need a permanent supply."

Desalination plants operate in the Middle East, where water is expensive and energy is cheap. At least two dozen plants are being considered in California.

"People explored and utilized the most cost-effective sources of water as long as they could," said Randy Truby, director of the International Desalination Association. "In California, they had the state water project, the Colorado River, sewage-water reclaim, conservation ... but once you exhaust all of those things, seawater desalting is about the only place you can go."