With each issue, Trib+Water brings you an interview with experts on water-related issues. Here is this week's subject:
Paul Choules is the president of the Texas Desalination Association.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Water: Could you talk about your most recent work?
Paul Choules: I have a couple of different works. One of my roles is being president of the Texas Desalination Association. I’m on a board of nine, and I’ve been the president since the conception, 2011. It’s not a paid position; it’s just something we all do to better desalination in Texas to try to educate fellow Texans on desalination as one potential water source. I also sit on another desalination board in the Caribbean. I also have my own water business based in Houston.
Trib+Water: Could you speak to any recent projects through any of those recent initiatives?
Choules: Probably the key here is the Texas Desalination Association because it’s obviously very focused on Texas. Part of the initiative we have is, one, educating the Legislature, the public, and trying to help minimize some of the misconceptions of desalination. As an example, the first misconception is the high cost. We try and explain the misconceptions. Education is very important.
We also look at evolving technologies and how well suited they are for not just ocean desalination, but even in other industrial applications like oil and gas, the frack market, those sort of things. We have a lot of people involved in the organization that have multiple technologies that can be used for desalination but can also used in other water treatment applications.
Trib+Water: What drew you to that work, in terms of your interest in desalination?
Choules: I started my career in 1980 Houston testing some desalination units for Mexico. The first time I saw seawater going in and drinking water coming out, it just fascinated me, and I thought, this has got to be the future. Little did I know that it had already been going on for well over 100 years. But it really fascinated me, and I had to travel all over the world to work on desalination projects. I lived in the Middle East for 10 years. I’ve traveled around the world to install and commission some of the largest desalination plants across the world, but I’ve always come back to Texas.
And Texas has a need — we just need to continue to educate and find the right location and the right opportunity and prepare people, because ultimately desalination is going to be needed in some form or another.
Trib+Water: What would you project the need in Texas is now for desalination and how will it grow in the future?
Choules: There’s been a lot of projections. Gov. Perry did some initiatives a few years ago for ocean desalination and that kind of died an unfortunate death — it just never really went anywhere, there was some testing done. But I think ideally a lot of the major coastal cities should install desalination plants — Corpus Christi, Brownsville, Galveston.
Within the Corpus, area there are some new industrial facilities being built and these industrial facilities are putting in their own desalination facilities because they can’t rely on water from the city. I see that as a real missed opportunity for the state. If people are doing that, there’s obviously a need. As citizens and as Texans, we should be trying to work with industrial clients and say, hey, if you need that water, we also need water, and we need some drought solutions, so why don’t we build something together? Try to get people to partner.
One of the largest desalination plants in the country and the world is the city of El Paso. That came about because of a partnership between the city and the federal government. There’s a good model there on how to partner with people to get the needs of the people addressed.