San Antonio OKs Design-Build for Desalination Project

San Antonio Water System's Board of Trustees (Texas) approved a resolution designating design-build as the preferred delivery method for the design and construction of a proposed desalination project.

The project, with an estimated cost of $200 million, will treat mineralized, saline water from the Wilcox Aquifer to supplement the region's water supply from the Edwards Aquifer. Minerals and other impurities will be removed from the water using reverse osmosis.

Secured during the 80th Legislature as a legal option for water and wastewater projects, design-build will provide the system an opportunity to contract with one firm for the design and construction of certain components of the project.

"As part of our continued evaluation of the feasibility of a desalination project in San Antonio," noted Janelle Okorie, vice president of Strategic Resource and Business Planning, "our staff assessed the value of alternative project delivery and financing strategies that would aid in the development of the project.

"The design-build process will provide a huge benefit to our ratepayers. It will enable certain design and construction activities to be completed in a faster timeframe and, consequently, at reduced cost when compared to the traditional procurement options."

Greg Flores, vice president of Communication and Customer Service, pointed out that the Board's actions will not affect SAWS commitment to working with Atascosa County representatives. "While we continue to meet key milestones in the project timeline, we have agreed to form an ad-hoc science committee with appointees from cities and water purveyors in Atascosa County."

During a recent meeting between the San Antonio Water System representatives, Mayor Phil Hardberger, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Atascosa County Judge Diane Bautista, a number of local mayors from Atascosa County, and two water purveyors that serve Atascosa County, participants agreed to review scientific findings together.

"The design-build resolution and establishment of the science committee represent real progress toward providing this region with resources much like those in El Paso and Brownsville," added Flores, referring to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant in El Paso and the regional desalination facility in the Rio Grande Valley.

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