News Feature | May 30, 2014

U.S. Water Agencies Consider Desalinating Mexican Seawater

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Southwestern water agencies, facing severe drought, have teamed up with the Mexican government to consider building a desalination plant in Mexico to supply water to U.S. customers.

The agencies serving San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson are heading up the project, along with Mexico. They are mulling the possibility of a seawater desalination plant "capable of producing 50 million gallons of water daily, enough to supply 112,000 homes, as a way of reinforcing water reliability in both countries. Water would either be pumped to the United States or swapped for the rights to some of Mexico’s share of the Colorado River," Voice of San Diego reported.

Water-sharing between Mexico and the U.S. is not unprecedented. "The two countries already share the Colorado, the lifeblood of not only the American Southwest but Mexicali, Tecate, and Tijuana, too," the report said. 

Under the proposal, the desalination plant would supplement the supply of the flagging Colorado River, according to the report. The desalination plant would also "create a new source to entice Mexico to share in future cuts and foster cooperation that’s often been lacking in the countries’ water history," the report said. 

The proposal is not without its critics. When the idea first emerged several years ago, it "sparked concerns that American water interests looking to Mexico are simply trying to dodge U.S. environmental reviews and legal challenges," the Associated Press reported

Phil Gordon, a former Phoenix mayor, is a vocal advocate of the proposal. He framed it as a boon to food production. 

"Use [the desalinated water] for putting all those millions of acres of desert in northern Mexico and southern Arizona into food production and become not only a water-producing area but also a breadbasket for the United States and the world,” he said, according to Cronkite News

Interested in the future of seawater? Check out Water Online's Desalination Solution Center

Image credit: "Los Cabos," jeffgunn © 2010, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: