Engineers and experts in the field made a solid case for both the widespread availability of brackish water in Texas and the improved technologies of desalination to tap into that source. They established that the Jasper aquifer here was mostly untapped at some 1,500 feet deep other than some old city wells drilled in the middle of the last century, sources of Beeville’s once-famously flavorful water.
Another water quality specialist explained that the byproduct from the proposed process shouldn’t be confused with brine or seawater, but had been approved at even higher salinity levels by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at other sites to flow directly into open streams.
While the feasibility of the one big well and desalination plan was explored and shored up somewhat with some simple cost comparisons, some larger questions remain open.
The fact that the council has produced this all-or-nothing proposal with only a few months for the community to decide is just poor leadership. While the council chased butterflies for the past couple of years with its massive parks program, many citizens have been pointing to the city’s urgent need for water and the dwindling supplies at the lake. This was no huge secret.
So now with Corpus Christi telling us we may not have surface water in less than two years, we’re backed into a corner. Sure, we can say that’s just water under the bridge but, frankly, it’s poor planning.
Putting all our eggs in one basket with the one big well approach only answers our diversification of sources issue at a minimal level. So what happens if we are indeed forced off surface water in a few years and then the well sands up or the desalination plant breaks down? Ideally, we should be in both the Goliad and Jasper aquifers with several wells at minimum to diversify our sources. The old adage that a three-legged stool is more stable than a two-legged one comes to mind.
Another big question is if we tie up our available credit with the one big well project, how do we as a community address the existing surface water system with aging infrastructure and leaky pipeline that is in dire need of repair? There’s also the question of other community needs like the school system and how much taxation can local citizens afford?
Thursday’s hearing was informative but is only a beginning to flesh out some answers before the citizens can fully come to terms with whether this is the best approach. Unfortunately, this hearing and bond issue are occurring two to three years later than optimal for fully vetting multiple options.
As demonstrated at the federal level, the citizens are the losers when governed by crisis. The one big well and desalination plant may work but it would have been nice to make the decision without waiting until there’s a gun pointed to our head.