Corpus Christi is Borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul

The old adage of Peter and Paul comes from the notion that if you borrow from one person to pay another, in the end, you are right where you started. You can spend time trying to convince Peter to loan you some money or just take the time to save up the money and pay off Paul all together. The first choice just leaves you owing somebody a big wad of cash. The second choice creates independence and sustainability, a debt-free life.

The city of Corpus Christi has a similar decision to make. The city council, and city leaders, must decide how to keep the city’s water supply sufficient for future users. Corpus has two choices, and they are choosing the wrong one.

A recent article reported that Corpus’ water demand is currently 65% of their supply, on an average annual basis. At current growth rates AND assuming the same or similar water usage, the city projects they will need more water by 2027. However, water projections are not cast in stone; they depend on how the water is used. Imagine you had $2000 in your bank account and your bills each month totaled $500. If you are careful with your money, it can last you up to 4 months, but if you don’t spend it wisely it will run out much sooner. Water is the same way. The more you use it, the faster it disappears.

Corpus is planning to build a $165 million pipeline to ship water 40 miles from the Lower Colorado to Lake Texana and then into the city. Seems like a reasonable plan, until you start looking at the details. First of all, Corpus is only using 65% capacity of their current water supply. The Texas Water Development Board recommends 140 Gallons per capita per day (GPCD). Corpus’s current per capita water usage is far beyond the Texas average and their self-imposed conservation goal is to be at 212 GPCD by 2018!!! If Corpus reduced its usage to the recommended amount it would save over 26,000 gallons per capita per year which would greatly extend the capacity available to accommodate growth.

Another puzzler is the city’s agreement to provide the proposed Las Brisas coal plant with billions of gallons of water. This decision would mean that the need to find new supply would come 7 years sooner. So, instead of implementing cost saving conservation measures OR asking Las Brisas to use water saving cooling technology OR telling them to look elsewhere for water, the city has decided to borrow money from the state to build a pipeline and ask their citizens to pay for it. This doesn’t even take into consideration all the power it will take to move the water 40 miles.

It sounds to me like Corpus Christi wants to borrow some water from 40 miles away to give its own water to Las Brisas, and in the process it's going to stick the city with a $165 million bill. Who are they going to borrow from to pay that bill?

Amy Hardberger, Attorney
Environmental Defense Fund

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