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Arizona House of Representatives Passes Bill to Advance Desalination in the State

On February 12, 2015, the Arizona House of Representatives passed HB 2445, which would establish a desalination study committee.  The bill is sponsored by Rep. Steve Montenegro (R–Avondale).  The nine-member committee would be composed of three members appointed by the Speaker of the House (one from each political party and one who has experience with the Yuma Desalting Plant), three members appointed by the President of the Senate (one from each political party and one who has experience with other desalination projects), and three members from the academic community (one from each of Arizona’s three state universities).

The committee would be charged with assembling information on the history and development of desalination in the state, reviewing data from the Yuma Desalting Plant demonstration run, studying additional opportunities for desalination projects and presenting a written report of its findings to the Governor, Legislature and Secretary of State no later than December 31, 2015.

Given that the Yuma Desalting Plant is the case example for a desalination plant in the land-locked state of Arizona, it is referenced heavily in the legislature’s supplemental materials.  The plant was authorized under the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act of 1974 to treat saline agricultural return flows from the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District.  Construction was completed in 1992, and two demonstration runs have been successfully completed—at 10% capacity and 30% capacity—since then.

Opportunities may lie in the desalination of brackish supplies and return flows—and in the desalination of seawater.  A Strategic Vision for Water Sustainability, a report released last year by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, contemplates partnering with California to fund a seawater desalination project on the California coast.  Also, a former mayor from the City of Phoenix has been advocating for Arizona to work with Mexico on desalination from the Sea of Cortez—and the bi-national development of a seawater desalination plant at Rosarito Beach is on the horizon.

Written by Marta L. Weismann