10 companies present proposals to increase city water supply

10 companies present proposals to increase city water supply

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This illustrative video shows the seawater desalination process in action.

Corpus Christi Caller Times

The city of Corpus Christi won’t decide how it’s going to build and operate a desalination plant until next year or 2021. 

But during its regular meeting Tuesday, City Council heard from 10 companies that presented their proposals for alternative water sources for Corpus Christi. Two of the proposals were for ground water projects, two were for wastewater reuse and six were for desalination. 

Two years ago, eight of the 10 private companies presented to city staff their proposals after  the city put out a bid requesting information on alternative water sources. 

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Leaders from Corpus Christi’s city government and business community toured the Port of Corpus Christi on Monday. They saw up close the challenges the nation’s fifth largest port faces with growth. Here, two vessels moored on opposite sides of the Inner Harbor illustrate how congested the waterway can become. (Photo: Chris Ramirez/Caller-Times)

The city never followed up for more information, including cost, about the companies’ proposals. 

City Council members Rudy Garza, Gil Hernandez, Ben Molina and Paulette Guarjardo wanted to know more about the private companies’ proposals. They submitted a request to add the private-sector 2018 presentations to Tuesday’s meeting agenda.

Five City Council Candidates held a news conference outside City Hall during the meeting to announce their “People’s Platform” against desalination in Corpus Christi.

The candidates included: Eli McKay for Dist. 1, Sylvia Campos for Dist. 2, Jim Klein for Dist. 4, Deanna King for at-large and Liz Perez for at-large. All agree that citizens should not pay for industry investments, which includes the desalination plants the city is pursuing.

However, the city is still pursuing a $222.5 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to build a seawater desalination plant within the Inner Harbor of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

“What today’s professional presentations … demonstrated … the city is moving in the right direction with looking at seawater desalination as a secure water source,” City Manager Peter Zanoni said.

“(And) the range of development and construction costs that have been suggested for Corpus Christi’s initial desalination plant are within the range of costs the industry is forecasting today.”

The water development board is only providing financing, not direction, board officials said. 

When the time is right, Mayor Joe McComb said, the city could decide to pursue a public-private partnership to build and operate the plant, hire an engineering company to build it or have city staff take on the task, among other options. 

“It’s ‘on your mark, get set, go. On your mark is — we’ve done the studies,” McComb said. “Get set is — we got that initial loan from the Texas Water Development board. And we hired Freese and Nichols to go out and do an assessment on sites.”

McComb said they’ve selected a proposed site, the Inner Harbor of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, and have applied for desalination plant permits with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

“Once we get approval, that’s when we then begin to make the determination, ‘Okay, would it be better to go out and hire somebody to do a design, build and operate? Or would it be better to hire somebody to design and build it and the city operate it?'” McComb said. 

“Those decisions have not been made. No contract has been issued. We have not borrowed the (other) $200-plus million yet.”

In August, the council authorized a financing agreement with the Texas Water Development Board for an $11.4 million loan to start the permitting process for one of two desalination plants.

The total amount in loans the city could be awarded by the state agency to build a desalination plant is about $222.5 million.

Here’s a summary of the proposals:

Evangeline/ Laguna, LP Hamlet Newsom

  • Source: groundwater
  • Agreement: take or pay
  • Term: negotiable
  • Volume: up to  25 million gallons a day 
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons : $1.57 for water in the ground, $2.99 for water delivered to Mary Rhodes Pipeline, $4.27 for treated water delivered to MRP
  • Type of water: raw
  • Turnaround: 1.5 years

Dimmit Utility WSC

  • Source: groundwater
  • Agreement: take or pay
  • Term: 40 years
  • Volume: 20‐50 million gallons a day  
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: less than $3
  • Type of water: raw
  • Turnaround: 2‐3 years

Veolia North America

  • Source: reuse of city wastewater
  • Agreement: design, build, operate and finance or design build and operate
  • Term: design, build, operate and finance — 20 to 30 years, or design, build and operate  –10 to 15 
  • Volume: 6.25 million gallons a day
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: not available 
  • Type of water: potable
  • Turnaround: not provided

Poseidon Water, LLC ‐ SUEZ

  • Source: reuse of city wastewater
  • Agreement: public‐private partnership
  • Term: 40 years
  • Volume: 15 million gallons a day
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: not available
  • Type of water: potable
  • Turnaround: 3‐5 years

Poseidon Water, LLC

  • Source: desalination
  • Agreement: public‐private partnership
  • Term: 40 years
  • Volume: up to 100 million gallons a day
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: not available
  • Type of water: Potable
  • Turnaround: 3‐5 years

Seven Seas Water Co.

  • Source: desalination
  • Agreement: build, own, operate and transfer ownership to city 
  • Term: 30 years
  • Volume: 20 million gallons a day expandable to 50 million gallons a day 
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: $2.73 not including electricity, $3.48 including electricity costs
  • Type of water: Potable
  • Turnaround: pending regulatory permit approval, roughly 30 months 

Corpus Christi Polymers, LLC

  • Source: desalination
  • Agreement: take or pay
  • Term: 3 years initially
  • Volume: 9.4 million gallons a day initially expandable to 24 million gallons a day
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: industrial water — $3.04-$3.54 not including electricity, industrial water — $4.25-$4.75 including electricity, potable water — $3.20-$3.70 not including electricity, potable water — $4.60-$5.10 including electricity 
  • Type of water: industrial and/or potable
  • Turnaround: 6 months to 6 years for 24 million gallons a day

Corpus Christi Civic Leadership Group, LLC

  • Source: desalination
  • Agreement: multiple agreement options
  • Term: to be determined
  • Volume: 10 to 20 plus million gallons a day
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: $2.90-$3.10 not including electricity; $3.30-$3.60 including electricity
  • Type of water: industrial and/or potable
  • Turnaround: 9‐12 months with Corpus Christi Polymer plant, 2‐3 years with a new plant

IDE Technologies ‐ Kiewit Co.

  • Source: desalination
  • Agreement: public-private partnership or design, build and own
  • Term: public-private partnership- 30-plus years; design, build and own — five-plus years
  • Volume: 15 million gallons a day 
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: not available
  • Type of water: potable
  • Turnaround: 2‐3 years after permitting

Consolidated Water Co. Ltd.

  • Source: desalination
  • Agreement: public-private partnership
  • Term: to be determined
  • Volume: sized as needed
  • Cost per 1,000 gallons: proposed target cost between $3.50‐$4.50, contingent upon plant size and length of contract term
  • Type of water: potable
  • Turnaround: 3‐4.5 years

Many of the proposals were “take and pay” deals, in which the city wouldn’t have to pay anything until the company started providing water with the desalination plant. But once one drop is used, the city would have to pay for a certain amount of water every day whether its used or not. 

“They don’t do this for free. … They’ve got to start getting back their money,” McComb said. 

He said that may not be the best deal for Corpus Christi because the desalination plant water would be a supplemental water supply. The city’s main supply would remain from surrounding surface water. 

Not everyone at City Hall on Tuesday were there to support desalination.

Five City Council Candidates held a news conference outside City Hall during the meeting to announce their “ People’s Platform” against desalination in Corpus Christi.

The candidates included: Eli McKay for Dist. 1, Sylvia Campos for Dist. 2, Jim Klein for Dist. 4, Deanna King for at-Large and Liz Perez for at-Large. All agree that citizens should not pay for industry investments, which includes the desalination plants the city is pursing.

Why pursue a desalination plant?

Corpus Christi is a a water supplier for seven counties with a combined population of more than 500,000 people, City Manager Peter Zanoni has said. 

The city has experienced major droughts for decades, with one of the worst from 2011 until 2013. 

And within two and a half years, the Corpus Christi area is projected to reach 75 percent of water supply firm yield, or the maximum quantity of water which can be guaranteed during a critical dry period. 

To combat this, city officials have considered building a seawater desalination plant for about a decade, Zanoni said. 

Zanoni said the planned desalination plant would be the first of two that are being pursued by the city. The other site being considered is at the LaQuinta Channel, in San Patricio County.

Kathryn Cargo follows business openings and developments while reporting on impacts of the city government’s decisions. See our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe.

Related coverage 

More: Here’s why the city of Corpus Christi wants a $222 million loan for seawater desalination

More: Corpus Christi makes improving its aging wastewater infrastructure a top priority

More: UPDATE: When will the city of Corpus Christi bring the Holly Road water tower online?

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