EUNICE, NM (AP) — A town in southeastern New Mexico is taking another step forward in searching for an “unlimited” water source.
Eunice Town Council recently voted to have a Hobbs-based engineering firm continue to study the benefits of building a desalination plant for the community.
As the depletion of fresh water from the Ogallala Aquifer continues, the council wants to know the feasibility of a proposed alternative – desalination of saline or brackish water. The Hobbs News-Sun reported that building a plant could cost around $5.5 million and completing the engineering study will likely provide a more accurate estimate.
City Manager Jordan Yutzy told councilors the engineering work by Pettigrew and Associates will cost about $464,000. Public funds finance the work.
The engineering company began the study last summer to determine if water from underground brackish aquifers can be economically desalinated for human consumption.
In July, Mayor Billy Hobbs expressed excitement about the potential.
“Eunice could become water independent,” Hobbs said. “I think it would be a good deal for Eunice and the surrounding area. Hopefully when the study comes back it will be doable. They say it’s an endless supply of water. There is plenty there.
The Ogallala Aquifer underlies parts of eight states – South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Agriculture, commercial industry, and residences use the Ogallala’s fresh water, with much less replenishment from precipitation or snowmelt.
Beneath the freshwater aquifer are reserves of salt and brackish water that must be treated, often at great cost, before human consumption.
“The aquifer is good under us,” Yutzy told the council. “(Pettigrew engineers) have a few sites that they think will be perfect for drilling wells. One of the main sites they lean toward is near the golf course.
Yutzy said the next phase will be to model the community’s water supply system to determine what infrastructure will be needed to bring water into the city. This includes considering the size of pipes that will be needed and potential connection points.
“Then we will do a well test so we can take a sample of the water,” he said. “They will send it for analysis to make sure it has not been contaminated or contains so that the system can be designed on the results.
Most desalination plants commissioned in recent decades operate near ocean shores, purifying seawater for human consumption. Seawater has a significantly higher salt concentration than most brackish water found below the surface. This means that a factory like the one envisaged in Eunice could cost less.
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