COMMENTARY by PATRICK ROSET
The facts are simple – unless we act now, we could run out of wastewater capacity by 2017, a reality that would cripple our response in serving even the most conservative of growth estimates and limit our ability to shape the kind of sustainable, quality community we deserve. I applaud the city’s willingness to tackle this difficult issue head-on and with our long-term sustainability in mind.
Our mayor and city council are on the record as strong proponents of beneficial reuse, a practical solution that presents an immediate opportunity to service public and private irrigation needs, while reducing the need to discharge our wastewater into Onion Creek.
So, what exactly is beneficial reuse? You may have heard it called by other names, such as reclaimed or recycled water, gray water, purple pipe or “Chapter 210” reuse.
Basically, the city collects and treats our wastewater to a standard to which it can then be used to irrigate our parks, sports fields and other open spaces. This puts our treated effluent “to work” and reduces the demand on our scarcest resource – drinking water.
If you are following the issue, you realize the city is moving in a positive direction, one that is environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible. It was reported that the city entered into a beneficial-reuse agreement with the Caliterra development to accept 118,000 gallons per day of treated effluent from the wastewater plant. This may sound like a minor development, but I would argue the contrary.
This news is significant because it’s proof-positive of the city’s publicly stated intent to secure agreements with multiple beneficial-reuse customers in the area.
The city’s goal is to reuse wastewater, not dispose of it. Additional proof may be seen in the city’s investment in new pipeline infrastructure to deliver treated wastewater to customers in the area. The beneficial-reuse strategy serves two important functions: First, it reuses water, a precious and increasingly scarce resource. Second, it reduces the city’s need to discharge highly treated effluent into Walnut Springs, a tributary of Onion Creek.
I have heard from some in the community that they believe the city is pursuing a discharge permit because it’s the easiest and cheapest alternative. That is simply not true; the permit is required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and is an arduous, long-term undertaking. A land-application permit was also explored, but due to the amount of land required, the costs associated with that acquisition and the ongoing maintenance, it is not sustainable.
The bottom line is that our elected officials and staff leadership at the city of Dripping Springs are moving in a responsible direction to address our wastewater needs. I believe our officials have set us on a path toward meaningful reuse, and their actions over the last several months certainly suggest they are walking the walk.
Former State Rep. PATRICK ROSE is a Dripping Springs native and chairs the city’s economic development committee. He is president of Corridor Title Co. in San Marcos, Dripping Springs and Austin.
COVER: PHOTO by NICHOLAS HENDERSON. MERCURY PHOTO ILLUSTRATION by BRAD ROLLINSEmail | Print