Raymondville launches $4.5 million project to build RO plan

City taps alternative water source

RAYMONDVILLE — Six years ago, a near-record drought almost cut off the city from its Delta Lake water supply.

Since that scare in 2013, City Manager Eleazar Garcia has been taking steps to build a reverse osmosis water plant to make the city’s water supply self-sustaining.

With a reserve osmosis system, the city planned to filter groundwater to turn it into clean drinking water.

By 2014, the city was using a $350,000 grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture to drill its first water well in about 60 years.

Then last year, the well tapped groundwater deep in the region’s aquifer at 1,500 feet.

So, the city is building a $4.5 million reserve osmosis plant to turn the salty, brackish groundwater into an alternative water source.

To fund the project, the Texas Water Development Board has given the city a $2 million grant along with a 20-year $2.5 million loan at an average interest rate of about 2.5 percent interest, Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said yesterday.

Gonzales said the city’s water rates will not increase to help pay off the loan.

The new plant’s operating costs will add about $110,000 to the city’s water costs, Garcia said, adding he plans to dip into the city’s $1.4 million water department reserves to offset the increase.

Gonzales said the plant’s construction is expected to be completed in about a year.

“We’re going to be pretty much drought-resistant,” Gonzales said.

Reverse osmosis

The plan, he said, calls for evenly mixing the city’s water supply with groundwater.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality describes brackish groundwater as “aesthetically displeasing but does not cause health concerns.”

Gonzales said the reverse osmosis plant will use a filtration process to clean the water.

“It softens the water,” he said.

The plant will clean 1.5 million gallons of groundwater a day — equal to the city’s daily water usage, he said.

Then, the city will mix it with the water supply from Delta Lake.

For customers, the end-product will be good-tasting, odorless water, Gonzales said.

“We’ll have quality water,” he said.

Model project

Regional leaders have hailed it as a model project.

“I think it’s very much needed,” Troy Allen, general manager of the Delta Lake irrigation district, said. “In my opinion, I think every city ought to have a back up water source. You never know when you could have a catastrophic failure in your delivery system.”

Gonzales said the city will become the third city in the Rio Grande Valley to operate a reserve osmosis plant.

So far, the cities of Brownsville and Rancho Viejo operate similar plants, he said.

Back-up water supply

Gonzales said the city will not have to risk running out of water again.

In 2013, the Delta Lake irrigation district warned the city could run out of water.

“They were going to cut us off the water,” Gonzales said.

The city stands 49 miles from the Rio Grande’s water source and 16 miles from Delta Lake in Edcouch