Michael J. Booth spoke about the costs associated with reverse osmosis treatment and compared them to the costs of treating fresh water.
Booth said most cities will opt to tap fresh water supplies before investing in an RO system because it is cheaper.
Also, small cities that depend on fresh water supplies are not likely to look into the RO technology until some kind of emergency situation develops.
Booth said that is where Beeville finds itself as the Coastal Bend region enters its third year of serious drought.
City Manager Deborah Ballí had said earlier that cities dependent on fresh water from Lake Corpus Christi have about two years to make arrangements for new sources of drinking water. If the region does not receive appreciable rainfall, Lake Corpus Christi could be lost as a source of water.
Corpus Christi, for example, is leaning more on taking water from Lake Texana. But that water flows directly to Corpus Christi through the Mary Rhodes pipeline. The water will not be available to Beeville, Alice and San Patricio County.
Booth added that it is important for smaller cities in the Coastal Bend to be involved in regional water planning. By remaining involved, those cities are more likely to have their interests met.
The attorney said the higher costs associated with RO treatment of brackish well water come from the expense of providing more electric power for the pumping and filtering equipment and from the costs of replacing the filtering membranes.
However, Booth was not specific about the costs associated with the proposed RO system that the City Council is proposing to build with a $15.3 million bond issue.
That project will depend on how voters decide on the issue at the city’s May 11 election this year.
About $12.3 million of that bond issue would pay for the cost of drilling wells in the Evangeline and Jasper aquifers and constructing an RO plant.
The other money would be spent on other water-related projects.
Both wells and the plant would be located at the city’s water storage facility on West Cleveland Street.
The water pumped from the deeper Jasper aquifer would contain about 1,500 parts per million in suspended solids and chlorides and would require filtering through an RO plant to meet Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards for drinking water.
Booth also explained the options some communities had taken in disposing of the concentrate that is discharged from RO plants.
The city will be required to obtain a permit from the TCEQ to discharge its concentrate into a drainage ditch and then into the Poesta Creek.
That concentrated effluent, which will contain about 8,000 ppm of solids and chlorides, will later blend with effluent from the city’s wastewater treatment plant and then continue down the creek to the Aransas River and eventually to the Gulf Coast.
The chamber is not taking a stand for or against the proposed water project and the bond election.
The city could increase property taxes to repay the bonds at a cost of an additional $17.63 a month for a home valued at $75,000.
But the City Council has indicated that it will consider tweaking water and wastewater rates to keep property owners in the city from having to foot the entire bill.
A substantial number of the city’s water customers live outside the city and do not pay city property taxes.