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Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 7:49pm
Austin, Texas (CNN) — As the record temperatures and the drought continue, Texas is exploring ways to turn salt water into fresh water.
El Paso now has the largest "desal" plant of its kind in the world and they're building one even bigger in San Antonio, but desalination remains hostage to the cost of technology and the willpower of people.
"As long as our cable bill is more expensive than our water bill our priorities are still screwed up. 71% of the earth's surface is covered in water and of that 97% you can't drink," explains Kyle Frazier, the Executive Director of the Desalination Association.
Seawater is twice as expensive to desalinate as brackish ground water, so we mostly rely on freshwater rivers and lakes, but if this record drought continues experts say we'll need to explore alternatives.
"We may find it's not as easy to build reservoirs or put in wells as it's been in the past, and if those options in whole or in part come off the table desalination becomes more viable," said Dr. Robert Mace with the Texas Water Development Board.
Texas is a vast mosaic of different rainfalls and topography. different regions, different solutions.
"Just the cost of building the pipeline putting pump, pumping all that water up the hill is very, very expensive, so the solutions to water shortages tend to be more local solutions," explained Michael Young, a geologist with the Bureau of Economic Geology.
Any solution: conservation, new reservoirs, desalination, the price is only going up.