“Efforts have been underway for the last year to find a solution to our dwindling water supply,” Ballí said. “It is the intention of the City Council to ensure that we secure water for our future in the most cost-effective way and in the most objective manner.”
Ballí said water is not readily available at Chase Field. It would take much more than signing an agreement to have access to wells on the property.
“The reality is that the city would be required to rehabilitate an existing well, drill three additional wells, pay to tie the wells into an existing 14-inch line, pre-treat the well water, construct a 250,000-gallon storage tank and then pay additional funds for all the water pulled out,” the city manager said.
Ballí also questioned the $0.62 per 1,000 gallons charge that BDA Executive Director Joe B. Montez would want for the water.
The city manager did not question the notion that purchasing water from Chase Field would provide money for creating jobs in the community.
“Residents should ask why they should pay for something they indirectly already own,” Ballí said.
“The city deeded the land to the BDA and they have control of the land as long as they exist. The land could eventually revert back to the city if the BDA no longer existed,” Ballí explained. “Their proposal would have the city pay all upfront costs and then pay an additional $295,000 per year.”
Ballí also addressed Montez’s claim that the BDA knows of investors interested in developing the project.
“If that is the case, the city would gladly pay the $0.62/1,000 gallons. But that is not the offer currently on the table.”
Even then, the development of wells at Chase Field would not solve the city’s problem.
“Our current average demand is 3.5 million gallons a day (mgd),” Balli said. In the summer that peaks at about 5.2 mgd.
“A million gallons a day would help, but we would still have to look for additional water supplies,” Ballí said.
The city manager also said she wants to set another aspect of the city’s position straight. The city is not flush with cash. There is no $12 million cash reserve set aside for utility infrastructure projects.
“The Utility Fund currently has $2 million in cash for operational purposes. Utility rates have barely kept pace with increasing costs. Utility Fund revenues are generated based on service rates charged to their customers for utility services the city provides.”
Ballí said if a city the size of Beeville ever had $12 million in cash reserves, residents would be asking why rates are so high.
The city manager said the only reason the city has not acted on the offer of using the Chase Field wells is that the staff and the City Council have been looking at all alternatives.
“A project such as this is complicated and built on costly assumptions,” Ballí said. “We have been told that we have a two-year supply of water if the area does not get another major water event.”
Fast-tracking the reverse osmosis and 1,700-foot well into the Jasper aquifer “gets the city additional water within one year,” Ballí said.
The solution proposed by engineer Bill Norris of NorrisLeal Engineering Water makes sense because it provides the city with a stable, long-term water supply with a minimum economic effect on the community. Also, it allows the water source to be in the control of the residents of the city.
“Long-term water solutions must make sense in both drought and non-drought conditions,” Ballí said.
“When you compare the two alternatives, wells in the aquifer recommended by the BDA can only pump 200-300 gallons a minute,” Ballí said, “and would require 10 wells to produce the same amount of water projected by one well inside the city limits.”
Also, wells drilled on the BDA property would be subject to drawdown restrictions and limitations set by the Bee County Groundwater District. The proposed well inside the city would not be held to the same restrictions.
Ballí said experts who have been consulting for the city have said taking 1 mgd from one well at Chase Field would violate the drawdown restrictions.
To get around those restrictions the city would have to drill four wells spaced a quarter mile apart so that the water would be taken from different parts of the Goliad aquifer.
Even then, taking that much water out of the Goliad aquifer could, over time, cause the level of the water in the sands to drop and affect other users of that aquifer.
There is no other known local user of the water in the Jasper aquifer, Ballí said. That means there would be little likelihood that the well could have an environmental impact.
The Jasper well and reverse osmosis plan could meet up to half of the city’s water needs if the demand remains as it is.
If Corpus Christi has to reduce or eliminate Beeville’s use of surface water from Lake Corpus Christi, the city could drill additional wells and expand the process equipment at the RO plant to provide 100 percent of the current demand.
“The projected cost of the city well is $12.3 million for 3 million gallons of water per day vs. $4,827,000 for 1.3 mgd without pretreatment,” Ballí said.
The estimates are based on an engineer’s analysis of both alternatives. The bottom line results in $1.60 per 1,000 gallons for 3 mgd with the well drilled in the city instead of a projected $2.34 per 1,000 gallons for 1.3 mgd from the Chase Field well.
The city well also could produce a cost savings, depending on the amount of water pumped, that could reach $800,000 a year.
The city plans a series of town hall meetings for discussion of the project with the first one scheduled for Thursday, March 28, at 6 p.m. at the Community Center.
Ballí said everyone who has concerns should attend the meetings.
“Availability to water is the most important issue facing the City of Beeville,” Ballí said. “Staying informed allows residents to make decisions based on truths and facts. Decisions today will affect the future of our children and future generations.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.