A Preliminary Economic Feasibility Study for the Establishment of an Energy-Water Complex in the Tularosa Basin
This study is a preliminary evaluation of the feasibility of the construction and operation of an industrial, agricultural, and recreational complex in the Tularosa basin. The proposed project involves desalting 500,000 acre-feet of saline groundwater, generating 2,000 megawatts of electricity, and recovering minerals from the reject brine.
Since the major components of the complex were assumed to be publicly financed, benefit-cost analysis was used to determine preliminary feasibility. Environmental risks associated with the energy-water project and social and political inputs were not evaluated. If portions of the complex were located on military lands in the Tularosa basin area, evaluation of the impact on the White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, and the McGregor Range of Fort Bliss would be needed.
The source of energy studied was nuclear power to generate steam for electricity production and desalting. Most of the electricity was to be exported outside the Tularosa basin. A small amount of the production would be required for the increased local demands created by the project.
The desalted water would be used chiefly by irrigated agriculture, with smaller amounts for municipal, industrial, and recreational needs. The water for irrigation would be blended with water from the well field to obtain water of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) dissolved solids, and then discharged to an impoundment reservoir for distribution to the irrigation system. The reservoir would also provide vater-based recreation. The proposed location of the reservoir would allow gravity flow to the irrigation system, but the water would have to be pumped to the reservoir.
Minerals recovered from the desalting brine would provide additional benefits from the project. Magnesium, potash, barium, sodium chloride, and magnesium oxide were the primary minerals analyzed for recovery.
Since an energy-water complex of this size has not been built or even planned to use saline groundwater, the design and cost data for desalting sea water were used. These data, mostly from published sources, had to be scaled up or down taking into account the change in feed water (sea to groundwater supplies). Cost data were adjusted to the 1972-1374 period, and applicable technology bases were in the same time frame. The proposed complex was assumed to come on-line in the year 2000.
The study was limited by assumptions to the size of electrical generation capacity, source and type of nuclear facility, quantity of water to be desalted, and the technology of multistage flash evaporation. These assumed values may not be those best suited to a complex in the Tularosa basin. Further research is needed to evaluate this question.
Project No. 3109-4QI