Jim Urban of Urban Engineering and Carl Crull of HDR Engineering Inc. met with two City Council members and four members of the Beeville Water Supply District board at City Hall.
Urban provided charts and diagrams to explain his reasoning.
Urban said one of the city’s biggest problems is the number of significant leaks in the 18-mile pipeline between the George P. Morrill, I Water Treatment Plant at Swinney Switch and Beeville’s water storage tanks.
Up to 250,000 gallons of treated water a day is gurgling up from the concrete pipeline in different locations and into farmers’ and ranchers’ fields, Urban said.
“And we’ve bought that and we’ve treated that,” BWSD Board President Jim Crumrine said.
That means the water district has paid the City of Corpus Christi for each thousand gallons that is pumped from the Nueces River at the headwaters of Lake Corpus Christi and then paid for the chemicals and machinery that treated the water and pumped it to Beeville.
Urban said the BWSD has not been repairing the leaks because the district does not have the money to do that.
City crews have been making the repairs to the best of their ability but the patchwork has done little to prevent additional leaks from popping up along the line.
Interim City Manager and Finance Director Deborah Ballí said she has been told that there are at least 36 leaks along the 30-year-old transmission line.
“That’s valuable water,” Urban said.
Crumrine said the leaks are obvious because of the cattails growing where the water is leaking.
“They’re extremely embarrassing,” Crumrine said. “It can’t be ignored any more.” He estimated later that leaks could be costing the city $700 a day and up to $20,000 a month.
“That is the priority,” Urban told the board and council. Then he pointed out that the district has some large expenses ahead in addition to the money that needs to be spent on repairing the pipeline.
Urban said there is no money available for moving the district’s intake structure down farther into the lake. And there is no money for a badly needed, third clarifier at the water treatment plant.
By 2014, there will be other items on the district’s list of projects that need to be funded.
Urban drove home the fact getting improvements to the system on line take at least 18 months, even if the city has the money for the project in hand when the effort starts.
The engineer provided those at the workshop with a five-page package of information related to water projects. The top ten projects had timeline estimates marked in red. Those, Urban said, will be completed by September. And some of those should greatly improve the flow of water to the city.
Those projects included important items like replacing three raw water pumps, cleaning out the pump station wet well at the intake structure and sandblasting and painting rusting pumps, motors, supports, bases and frames at the pump station.
Urban also mentioned the possibility of getting groundwater (wells) on line. But he said with test wells, permits and other red tape required to get wells connected to the system, it would take at least two years before the city could count on those resources.
The engineer said the items on a secondary list, marked in blue on the chart, would also require a couple of years to get on line. Urban, Crull and Crumrine then discussed the timetable for getting bond issues sold to the public, approved in an election and then sold to investors.
The soonest a bond issue election could be held would probably be in 2014 because the earliest an election could be held to get the approval of the voters would be November.
But Crumrine ruled that out because the district will need time to convince voters that the city needs to sell the bonds and add a debt that rate payers and taxpayers would have to repay.
Urban said he was not sure how much the district would have to go for in a bond sale.
“It’s going to be big,” Urban admitted. “It could double your (water) rate. There’s no question you can fund it. But you’re going to have to sell it to the public. They’re the ones who will have to pay for it.”
Urban also suggested having the city track down where most of its water currently is going. He said the fact that water usage has increased with the arrival of businesses related to the Eagle Ford Shale oil field operations suggests that some of that treated water may be used in the oil field.
The engineer said those companies do not need, expensive, potable water for their operations. He suggested bringing some of the city’s lesser quality wells on line and figuring out a way to sell wastewater plant effluent to those customers.
It was mentioned that one of the city’s potentially large water users is located a short distance from one of the old wells on Mussett Street.
Currently, Beeville has tighter water use restrictions in effect than the City of Corpus Christi. But Crull said that when that city tightens up its water use regulations, the same restrictions will go into effect for all cities which take water from Corpus Christi’s reservoirs.
If the drought in the Coastal Bend, which is now into its second year, does not break soon, Crull said Corpus Christi could start significantly reducing water usage.
He said industries would be the first to see a curtailment of available water. Residential customers would be the last customers affected.
John Valls, a consultant for Ballí, said plans are for the city to reach out to oil-related industries connected to Beeville’s water system to determine what they need.
Urban cautioned about paying for equipment that will provide huge increases in water availability