Egypt Looks to El Paso for Water Wisdom

The city's massive inland desalination plant is drawing admirers from near and far.
Wed February 13, 2013 12:45 pm
AP Images | John Moore

Texas may be in the depths of its second worst drought on record , but apparently Egypt thinks we’re doing something right about it. Egyptian water officials travelled to El Paso this week to learn about their state-of-the-art water conservation methods.

The western border city is home to the world’s largest inland desalination plant, which was completed in 2007 and can supply up to 27.5 million gallons of water per day for the city and Fort Bliss. KFOX-TV reported that Egypt is looking to desalination technology to counter its worsening water shortage. Egypt's Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation took a tour of El Paso’s water utilities and learned about the plant’s “complexity.”

"The plant here is very important for us in Egypt,” said Dr. Khaled M Wassif, a visiting Egyptian. “[I]t's a new technology and we hope we can learn from it."

Wassif said their nation currently has a small desalination plant that converts seawater for tourism purposes, but its operating cost is too high for general use. He hopes they can employ El Paso’s technology at a lower cost, he added.

El Paso’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant rarely runs at full capacity due to the large and pricey amount of energy it requires. The Texas Tribune noted that desalinating salty groundwater (known as brackish water) costs 2.1 times more than the production of groundwater and 70 percent more than surface water. In 2011, the plant supplied four percent of El Paso’s water.

The city’s efforts recently drew praise from domestic officials, as well, who toured the plant last month. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor were impressed by El Paso’s successful execution of desalination, the El Paso Times reported. The tour was part of a “regional Mini Water Conference” for the U.S. federal government to see how it can better support water conservation efforts in Texas.

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