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Corpus Christi sold its water to Exxon and is losing its big bet on desalination

People fish in front of defunct oil drilling rigs in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel at Aransas Pass on March 11, 2019, in Port Aransas, Texas.

Enlarge / People fish in front of defunct oil drilling rigs in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel at Aransas Pass on March 11, 2019, in Port Aransas, Texas. (credit: Loren Elliot/AFP via Getty Images)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas—Five years ago, when ExxonMobil came calling, city officials eagerly signed over a large portion of their water supply so the oil giant could build a $10 billion plant to make plastics out of methane gas.

A year later, they did the same for Steel Dynamics to build a rolled-steel factory.

Never mind that Corpus Christi, a mid-sized city on the semi-arid South Texas coast, had just raced through its 50-year water plan 13 years ahead of schedule. Planners believed they had a solution: large-scale seawater desalination.

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