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WATER HAS FLOWED FROM SITE FOR OVER A CENTURY
One of the longest-serving water sites in Cotulla may have dispensed its final gallon to downtown homes and now faces closure.
Records at City Hall indicate the water well beside the La Salle County Courthouse dates from 1919. The well and its adjoining water tower, which dates to the same period, have long been prominent landmarks for the town whose first artesian wells were dug by pioneer Joseph Cotulla in the 1880s to prove that the dry South Texas landscape could be farmed.
Today, the water tower has been faithfully refurbished at city expense, but its well is the third at the spot and failed to pump any more this month.
City Administrator David Wright told councilors at their May meeting that he believes the well on top of the hill in the center of town can no longer be repaired.
“It needs to be retired and abandoned,” Wright said. “Water is infiltrating, and the pump failed recently. We need to think about another well.”
Wright indicated he believes the small site is overcrowded and cannot accommodate a new well being drilled.
The lowest bid for an engineering job to re-route water lines in order to continue use of a 500,000-gallon ground-level water storage tank at the site has been submitted by the Tetra Tech company at just over $11,700.
The storage tank served by the well was built in the late 1990s and was intended to help equalize water pressure in the utility service, maintain a reserve, and lower the temperature of the city’s water, which came out of the faucet at 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The ground storage tank is dependent on that well, and we don’t want to abandon all the infrastructure,” the city administrator said. “We need to develop a bypass with a valve, to use the tank for storage.”
Neither Wright nor city water service supervisor Jimmy Oranday indicated whether it will be possible to continue using the vintage elevated water tower.
City Hall expects to continue using some of the infrastructure at the well site but may need to drill a new well nearby and connect it to the original lines. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) requires a complete engineering plan for the alterations.
Until that job is complete, Wright said he believes the city’s remaining wells can meet daily needs.
According to City Hall, the highest water demand in a single day in Cotulla has been 2.5 million gallons. The city’s wells can produce 3.4 million gallons of water in a day without the well beside the county courthouse.
City officials now have their eye on an empty property covering an entire city block within sight of the disabled well and indicated this month that they expect to approach the Laredo Area Foundation with a purchase offer.
“That property was donated to the public library,” former city administrator Larry Dovalina said on May 11. “It was aimed at being the site of a children’s museum.”
“That’s the property I’d like to acquire,” Wright said.
The move to pay Tetra Tech for a draft of the engineering plan to re-route water lines and continue using the modern storage tank was made by Councilor Eloy Zertuche, seconded by Councilor Manuel Rodriguez and supported unanimously.
The council’s decision marks the beginning of the end for the last of the hilltop wells that have supplied Cotullans with their drinking water for more than a century.