I have two questions regarding this Trib story about the dire drought situation in Odessa.
The city of Odessa, facing a dire drought situation, is looking to an unlikely example for help in finding water: the desert city of El Paso.
Water pressure in Odessa dropped in August, and residents can only water their lawns during the dark of night. Two of the three lakes the city normally relies on for water are almost completely dry. The other is less than 25 percent full and is expected to run out late next year, said Guy Andrews, director of economic development for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce.
But a few hundred miles farther west, El Paso’s half-million residents have plenty of water even though they live in the middle of the Chihuahua Desert, thanks to a massive desalinization plant and a successful 20-year-old conservation program.
Odessa is apparently a good candidate for a desalinization plant. They sit on top of a lot of brackish water, which is less salty than ocean water and thus less expensive to turn into fresh water. The story says that the Odessa Development Corporation, which is the entity investigating this, is seeking to raise up to $50 million from private investors and hopes to have a plant up and running in the next two to three years. Which makes me wonder, what exactly happens in the meantime if that third lake runs dry? What other sources of water do they have?
Also, as the story notes, El Paso has been aggressively promoting water conservation, which has resulted in them not being particularly affected by the current drought. The desalinization plant treats 27 million gallons of water a day, which is nearly 10 billion gallons a year, while the conservation efforts save another four billion gallons a year. What if anything is Odessa doing, or has it been doing, to push conservation? Restricting when you can water your lawn is one thing, but as El Paso has shown, providing incentives to get rid of them altogether and replace them with plants that need less water is better. (Tiered pricing is also a good idea.) What has Odessa been doing to prepare itself for this day? The story doesn’t say. Does anybody know?