City Maintains Stage Two Restrictions as Water Level Drops Below 30 Percent

Corpus Christi City Manager Peter Zanoni revealed on Thursday that the combined water level in the Corpus Christi Water District has dropped below 30 percent for the first time since 2015. The current level stands at 29.9 percent, a combination of Lake Corpus Christi and the Choke Canyon Reservoir levels. The city entered stage one restrictions when water levels dipped below 40 percent. Stage two triggers are at 30 percent, and stage three is at 20 percent. Since June 14, 2022, Corpus Christi has been officially experiencing a drought, leading to stage one restrictions that limit residential water use to once a week for lawn and plant watering.

The impact extends beyond Corpus Christi, as the water district serves over half a million customers across seven counties. The last significant upgrade to the water system was the early 90s implementation of Mary Rhodes Pipeline Phase Two. Zanoni commented, “It’s been three decades since we’ve added water to our distribution system, which is concerning for a growing region.” He is cautious about moving to stage two restrictions to avoid public panic. Due to predictions of impending heavy rainfall by the National Weather Service, it is expected to bring 2.5 to 3 inches of rain.

Meetings between city staff and the National Weather Service occur weekly to monitor the situation. The anticipated rain must occur northwest of the city to affect the watershed. Zanoni hopes that the water level will remain stable after the rainfall. He explained that the first weather system is expected to saturate the ground, preparing it for subsequent rainfall that could increase reservoir levels.

The city will advance to stage two drought restrictions if the rainfall is insufficient. It includes allowing residential customers to water their lawns once every other week, limiting golf courses to watering greens and tee boxes with the same frequency, and prohibiting potable water for fairways.

Councilwoman Sylvia Campos emphasized the need for industrial water users to bear a greater conservation responsibility. The Drought Contingency Plan would also impose restrictions on businesses consuming over 6,000 gallons daily, aiming for a 20 percent reduction in water use. The city manager can impose surcharges on excessive water use for residential and business customers.

In pursuit of a more reliable water source, the city is moving towards constructing a seawater desalination plant capable of processing 30 million gallons daily. The City Council has chosen the inner harbor site for this plant. Next week, Zanoni will present eight action items related to the plant’s construction, funding, and operation, including applying for a state loan.

Collaboration with the Port of Corpus Christi for a desalination plant on Harbor Island is still possible, with ongoing discussions about financial support from the Port for the inner harbor facility. If approved, the desalination plant could be operational by 2027.
Meanwhile, the city is exploring other water sources, like the Evangeline Aquifer in Sinton, and considering water reuse and underground storage options, as practiced by other large cities during droughts.

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