Economies of size in municipal water treatment technologies: Texas lower Rio Grande Valley
As the U.S. population continues to increase, planning for future water quantity and
quality needs is important. Historically, many municipalities have relied heavily on
surface water as their major source of drinking water, but recently, technological
advancements have improved the economic viability of reverse-osmosis (RO)
desalination of brackish-groundwater as a potable water source. Brackish-groundwater
may be an alternative water source that provides municipalities an opportunity to hedge
against droughts, political shortfalls, and protection from potential surface-water
contamination. This research specifically focuses on investigating economies of size for
conventional surface-water treatment and brackish-groundwater desalination by using
results from four water treatment facilities in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley
(LRGV). The methodology and results can have direct implications on future water
planning. Economic and financial life-cycle costs were estimated for a â smallâ -
conventional-surface water facility (2.0 million gallons per day (mgd) Olmito facility)
and a â smallâ -brackish-groundwater desalination facility (1.13 mgd La Sara facility).
Prior analyses were modified to determine similar costs for a â mediumâ -sized
conventional surface-water facility (8.25 mgd McAllen Northwest facility) and a
â mediumâ -sized brackish-groundwater desalination facility (7.5 mgd Southmost facility).
The life-cycle costs of the â smallâ Olmito facility are compared to the life-cycle costs of
the â mediumâ Northwest facility and the life-cycle costs of the â smallâ La Sara facility
are compared against the life-cycle costs of the â mediumâ Southmost facility to
determine the existence of economies of size.
This research was facilitated by the use of the CITY H20 ECONOMICSÂ© and the
DESAL ECONOMICSÂ© ExcelÂ® spreadsheet models previously developed by Texas
AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economists.
Although the results are applicable to the Texas LRGV, economies of size are apparent
in conventional surface-water treatment and constant economies of size are evident in
brackish-groundwater desalination. This research also concludes that RO desalination of
brackish-groundwater is economically competitive with conventional surface-water
treatment in this region.
Advisor:Rister, M. Edward; Harris, Bill L.; Lacewell, Ronald D.
School:Texas A&M University
School Location:USA - Texas
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:economies of size municipal water treatment
Date of Publication:08/01/2008