Small Coastal Bend Towns Dealing with Water Crisis

The Coastal Bend is in the second worst drought of all-time. One area where it’s evident is at Lake Corpus Christi. It’s only a third full and it’s causing some problems for some small towns that use it for a water resource.

Lake Corpus Christi is run by the city of Corpus Christi and it’s located about five miles from Mathis, which is in San Patricio County. Corpus Christi uses the lake for its water resource, along with the small cities of Alice, Beeville and Mathis. On a regular basis, water from the Choke Canyon Reservoir is released to keep the water in the lake.

When Lake Corpus Christi is full, it’s at 94 feet. Just a year ago, the lake had 91 feet, but one year later, it’s at 82.5 feet and dropping one-tenth of a foot a day due to the drought.

Beeville, Alice and Mathis have pump stations to get water out of the lake. None of the cities are on water restrictions, even though two towns may not be able to provide water within the next few weeks.

Beeville is in the worst situation. The city’s pump won’t be able to pull water out once it hits 80 feet, which is expected in less than a month. Just recently, they asked Corpus Christi for an emergency release of water from Choke Canyon to bail them out of this water crisis.

Beeville water officials haven’t even told some of its city council leaders and residents about the water situation, hoping the crisis will be averted.

“It is hot and dry,” said Elisa Gonzales, a Beeville worker concerned about the water crisis. “Even where I live, it’s horrible. It’s the worst I have ever seen.”

Alice has nearly two months of water left as its pump station won’t be able to get water out at two feet below Beeville. City leaders also have asked for water to be released from the Choke Canyon.

“At 78 feet, it would be simply put: we would not be able pump water out of the reservoir,” said Ray De Los Santos, Alice City Manager.

Corpus Christi City Council leaders have to pass an ordinance to get an emergency water release from the Choke Canyon. Staff members are aware of the situation and plan to present the item to council by the end of August.

“The city of Corpus Christi certainly understands our responsibility and obligations to provide water to surrounding communities,” said Oscar Martinez, Corpus Christi Assistant City Manager. “At the same time, we understand we need to maximize our firm yield.”

Corpus Christi leaders said they advised the cities with pumps at the lake to invest in infrastructure and move the pumps to lower elevations in the early 1990’s after the last bad drought.

“We also communicated to them our desire they invest in their facility to make sure we can avoid these problems in the future,” Martinez said.

While Alice and Beeville deny they ignored the calls to move the pumps at the lake to a lower level, they also state it’s too costly for these small towns to pay that kind of money for the infrastructure investments.

Mathis leaders listened to the advice and it’s city leaders got money to move its pumps to another location It won’t run out of water until about 64 feet, which means Mathis still has about six months worth of water to provide to its residents.

“About five years ago, we extended 15 to 20 feet, the suction pipe to pull more water in case these emergencies we are having,” said Joe Sandoval, the Mathis Public Works Director.

Because of that, they aren’t in the same situation as Alice and Beeville. With long-term forecasts expecting a substanial amount of rain by October, it shouldn’t have to ask for an emergency water release from Choke Canyon.

“I am hoping we get rain before that,” Sandoval said “Hopefully, if everything goes right, the pump keeps up we shouldn’t have that problem.”

That’s good news for Mathis residents, while Beeville and Alice residents must hope the Corpus City Council will help them out so their cities will be able to still provide water services due to the drought.

–Manuel De La Rosa, mannydelarosa@yahoo.com

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