Desalination is not a new technology. In 1790, United States Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson received a request to sell the government a distillation method to convert salt water to fresh water.
During World War II, it was felt that desalination should be developed to convert saline water into potable water, where fresh water supplies were limited. In 1952 Congress passed “The Saline Water Act” to provide federal support for desalination. The U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Office of Saline Water (OSW) provided funding during the 1950s and 60s for initial development of desalination technology, and for construction of demonstration plants.
One of the first seawater desalination demonstration plants to be built in the United States was at Freeport, Texas in 1961. Dow, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of the Interior, built a 1 million gallons per day (mgd) long tube vertical distillation (LTV) plant at a cost of $1.2 million, that produced water for the City of Freeport and for Dow operations. During the dedication ceremony for the desalination plant, President Kennedy said, “No water resources program is of greater long-range importance than our efforts to convert water from the world’s greatest and cheapest natural resources – our oceans – into water fit for our homes and industry. Such a breakthrough would end bitter struggles between neighbors, states and nations.”