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‘Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting’
by Gary Kent
Jul 13, 2014 | 394 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – Surface water, both fresh and brackish, may be the saving grace for the water situation in the Texas Coastal Bend, according to James Dodson.

The water expert from Corpus Christi and Victoria made that statement when he addressed members of Beeville’s Rotary Club Wednesday afternoon at the Beeville Country Club.

“Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting,” Rotarian Josephine Miller said when she introduced Dodson.

When the water expert stood up he said that whiskey might have started more fights, but water had been the cause of anything from feuds to international conflicts.

Dodson has enjoyed a long career in engineering and water planning over the years. In the 1990s, he was involved in the agreement that resulted in Corpus Christi being required, by a court order, to release a certain amount of water from its reservoir system into the Coastal Bend bays and estuaries.

“Dryness has always been a problem for the western part of the state,” Dodson said.

In the 1800s, most residents around the Corpus Christi area depended on shallow wells that had salty water and cisterns for their drinking and irrigation water.

Corpus Christi eventually built a pump station on the Nueces River at Calallen in the late 1800s, and in the 1930s, the river was dammed up to create Lake Mathis.

That original dam did not last long, so, in 1958, Corpus Christi built the Wesley Seale Dam and created Lake Corpus Christi.

That new dam was prompted by the extended drought of the 1950s that caused considerable worries in much of Texas.

Plans began for creating another reservoir for the Coastal Bend almost as soon as the Wesley Seale Dam was completed.

After considerable study and political wrangling, Corpus Christi finally settled on impounding water in Choke Canyon Reservoir near Three Rivers.

The dam creating that lake was completed in 1982, but it was 1987 before the lake was completely filled.

But two years later, the Coastal Bend found itself in the grips of more drought, with that dry spell lingering off and on until 1995.

To solve that problem, Corpus Christi signed an agreement with the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority in 1996 that authorized the city to build the Mary Rhodes Pipeline from Lake Texana.

Dodson said the population of the Coastal Bend was expected to grow to a point that the region would be facing water shortages again. But water usage in 2010 showed the situation to be “flat.”

Dodson said water usage that year was the same as it had been in 1984.

One of the major factors in that development came about when industrial water users managed to reduce the amount of water they required.

“Industry is doing a good job of conserving,” Dodson said.

One of the projects Corpus Christi is considering would include the construction of a centralized, $1.2 billion wastewater treatment plant that could pump treated wastewater to industries in that city.

The most recent development that is affecting the Coastal Bend’s water resources has been the need for water in the Eagle Ford Shale oil field.

San Patricio County could be doubling its water demand in the next five or 10 years.

Dodson said the Corpus Christi Regional Water Management Plan is calling for the construction of a Mary Rhodes II pipeline to bring water from the Colorado River.

But water levels in the Highland Lakes in the Texas Hill County could reduce the amount of water that could be pumped from that river.

Currently, Corpus Christi is looking at the possibility of desalinating sea water and even brackish water from wells around the Coastal Bend.

He said water planners also are looking at creating deep injection wells in which to store treated water. That would prevent the water loss from evaporation that now plagues the reservoirs in the Coastal Bend.

“Groundwater has huge potential,” Dodson said.

Since the 1950s, Beeville residents have always paid their fair share for the water the city pumps from the Nueces River at the headwaters of Lake Corpus Christi.

He said he thinks that is now up to about $1.25 per 1,000 gallons for raw water. Then the city adds the cost of treatment and distribution to the formula to determine what the individual customer pays.

Dodson believes the future for water development in the Coastal Bend is groundwater. There is fresh water in many of the water tables in the area and brackish water in other aquifers.

However, the entire region needs to be ready to depend on multiple sources for its water in the future, he said.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5220, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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