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Community members question industrial customer's impact to Inner Harbor Desalination Facility

Posted at 8:30 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 21:30:31-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tx — The development of an Inner Harbor Desalination Facility has been the topic of discussion for years. Many people in the community believe that it will only benefit industrial customers rather than residential water users.

“They [city leaders] were trying to pitch desalination as something that the community needed, that the public needed," Dr. Isabel Araiza, Founder of For the Greater Good said. "But we don’t need it. It’s really industry that needs it.”

Araiza has not been supportive of the city’s decision to build a seawater desalination plant at the Inner Harbor.

During a city council meeting in January, it was revealed that despite adequate research and data, the city remains unclear of what the impact to the ratepayer will be.

However, Araiza emphasized that this project is only to help industrial customers.

"Their costs are going to go up marginally, but still even now that their water rates have gone up, they still don’t compare to what our water rates are," Araiza said.

Earlier this month, Corpus Christi moved into stage 2 water restrictions after the region’s reservoir storage levels dropped below 30%. The city assured that residential and industrial customers will have to follow the same restrictive rules.

“What happens when they promise all these industries millions of gallons of water per day and then they have to shut off this desalination plant," Araiza said. "On top of paying extremely high water bills are we going to have to not use water for certain parts of the day?”

For large water customers, there will be a drought surcharge exemption fee. This is in addition to being billed for the water they use, which collectively averages about $4.5 million annually. The fee is not mandatory.

"We need industry to be accountable," Araiza said. "We need industry to be responsible. You know, do better. Have a conservation plan. Share your conservation plan.”

Bob Paulison, the Executive Director of the Coastal Bend Industry Association, thinks a desalination plant is the best option towards a more sustainable water source.

“A desalination plant starting in the Inner Harbor is the best way to strengthen our water supply," Paulison said.

He added that industry customers already account for 50% of the city’s current water usage. However, it was not exactly what the estimated rate impact would be to the larger corporations.

"With the estimated rate impact, we’re still working with the city to try to understand exactly how they arrived at that number," Paulison said. "But we have every confidence in them and we’ll continue to work with them.”

In addition, Paulison emphasized that industrial customers will do their part and the responsibility is not solely on regular users.

"As in the past, industry will continue to pay their fair share of the cost for that new source, just like they do for all the sources we currently have.”

According to city leaders, they are still in the process of researching the most qualified firms to begin discussing the building process of the desalination facility.

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