Corpus Christi will build a $757 million desalination plant after the City Council agreed to connect the facility to the state electric grid and seek additional state and federal funding.
The project will remove salt from 30 million gallons of seawater to increase drought resiliency. The desalination plant is part of an ongoing effort to provide a reliable water source to 500,000 residents in the state’s Coastal Bend region. Extended dry conditions dropped local reservoir levels nearly to 40% capacity in 2023. The conditions prompted Corpus Christi to keep water restrictions enacted in 2022 in place.
The city will apply for two grants to support the project – a $535.1 million loan from the State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT) and federal funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) grant programs.
Texas lawmakers created SWIFT in 2013 to provide affordable and ongoing financial assistance for projects in the state’s water plan via low-interest loans, extended repayment terms and other favorable terms. To date, the program has provided $11.5 billion to fund state water projects.
The federal Bureau of Reclamation can provide up to 25% of the cost of planning and construction, ranging between $30 million to $180 million, for projects that help communities develop drought-resistant water supply sources.
City officials also approved $3 million to build a transmission line and substation to connect the desalination plant to the state’s electric grid. The project has an estimated $16.7 million cost. Neighboring American Electric Power (AEP) customers would also use the infrastructure, according to city officials, meaning that Corpus Christi would only have to pay one-fifth of the project’s total construction costs.
The suite of desalination actions follows a December 2023 greenlight from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). TCEQ’s approval granted a draft discharge permit — the second of two TCEQ approvals the project needed to secure the facility after securing a Water Rights permit in October.
“This is a critical milestone in the City’s quest to secure an affordable, environmentally sustainable, and drought-proof water supply for our region,” Mayor Paulette Guajardo said in a release following a December TCEQ permit approval.
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Photo by Kim