Desalination in Arizona: What you should know as inventor gets ready to test new technology on Buckeye aquifer

An Arizona inventor is in the process of testing brand-new technology, that could add to the water supply in the Phoenix area.

Here's what you need to know about Brian Hageman's endeavors to bring desalination to the heart of Arizona.

Didn't the Governor talked about desalination recently?


During his final state of the state address on Jan. 10, 2022, Governor Doug Ducey proposed setting aside $1 billion to bring desalinated water to Arizona.

"Speaker [Rusty] Bowers, President [Karen] Fann and I have been working, and we propose that we make a historic investment: $1 billion," said Gov. Ducey. "Our goal: secure Arizona’s water future for the next 100 years."

What is desalination?

Essentially, desalination involves taking the salt out of water in order to make freshwater.

The technology, in various forms, has been around since ancient times. We have published an explainer on the topic of desalination.

But we're nowhere near the ocean! How will we desalinate water?

It's probably not a surprise, but the Phoenix area is not near an ocean. In the past, water policy experts have discussed the possibility of using water from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the nearest sea to Arizona.

Currently, there is a huge aquifer underneath the City of Buckeye that is not being tapped into, because the water is too salty.

Hageman has been researching that untapped aquifer.

"The water flows from north to southeast to west underground, ends up in a bottleneck in Buckeye, and flows underground down to the Sea of Cortez, and is lost in the ocean," said Hageman. "Everyday, we're losing this water. I've estimated the amount of water under Buckeye is enough to serve nearly a million homes. We just have to take the salt out of it."

The water Hageman is referring to comes from the Rockies, and flows underground through the Luke Salt Dome, which sits underneath Luke Air Force Base.

Luke Salt Dome? What is that?

According to a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a major salt body that is hidden in the West Valley, and that salt body has a pronounced effect on groundwater salinity in the area.

The salt, according to scientists who wrote the report, may have accumulated in a long-standing saline lake in the area millions of years ago.

According to the Arizona Geological Survey, the Luke Salt Dome is located15 mikes west of Downtown Phoenix, and parts of the area also stores liquefied petroleum gas.

In a 2021 article on the Arizona Daily Star, it was noted that Morton has a salt extraction facility in Glendale.

What does Hageman's plan entail?

Hageman said he has come up with a hydraulic engine that could potentially create a brand-new water source.

"My technology, the thermal hydraulic engine, is an engine that runs on hot water," said Hageman. "It runs on solar hot water panels, solar hot water collection, and then, we need a cold water source, which is the aquifer itself."

Hageman's plan includes several dozen engine modules, and a total of six desalination stations.

"Each module is like a 40-foot shipping container. Each module would do 1 million gallons a day," said Hageman. "I can have the first million gallon a day system up and running in two years, and I plan on having the other 40 done within eight years. My technology uses 90% less electricity, much more economical and sustainable because we’re solar-powered."

How will Hageman turn his plans into reality?

Hageman says he’s been discussing his desalination plans with the City of Buckeye and state lawmakers.

As for the $1 billion Gov. Ducey proposed towards desalination, Hageman said he will be first in line if that passes the legislature, and signed by the Governor.

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