With busted pipes, Presidio leaks water and money

PRESIDIO — Presidio has a water-pressure problem.

The border city’s water storage facilities sit hundreds of feet above its pumping stations. To keep sinks flowing, officials have to constantly pump water up — creating a lot of pent-up pressure in the water-supply system.

“It’s good if you want to take a nice strong shower,” Joe Portillo, city administrator for Presidio, said of the unusually powerful taps in his city. “But it also causes a lot of vibrations underneath the ground.”

Vibrations, as well as lots of broken pipelines.

Since 1991, when Presidio’s current water system was put online, the system has continued to age and deteriorate, said Presidio Mayor John Ferguson.

The city has spent an unknown amount of money fixing its broken pipelines. In the process, it’s lost around 30 percent of its on-supply water, said Irvin Olivas, a city councilmember.

But relief could soon be on the way. The city recently scored two grants — one from the Texas Department of Agriculture, another from the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission — to revamp its water system. And about a year ago, it hired Kleinman Consultants, a local planning company, to help develop a plan to fix the issues.

At a meeting Wednesday, Vicky Carrasco, a planner for the company, briefed Presidio City Council on the progress of the plan and present preliminary recommendations. “They just wanted an update,” she said. “We’re still doing analysis.”

With a final report not due until December, Kleinman Consultants says it’s too soon to set firm dates on the project. But the company already has some ideas for how to fix the problem — as Ramon Carrasco, project manager and CEO for the firm, explained in a phone interview.

First off, the city pipes are small and outdated. With many just two inches in diameter, they should be upgraded to better handle the water pressure, Carrasco said.

The firm is recommending a new tank and standpipe, as well as new valves that could help isolate line breaks, Carrasco said. Last but not least, the firm hopes to use funds from the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission to reroute supply pipes directly from pumping stations to tanks — avoiding the city’s fragile pipes and the problems that come with them.

“Right now, the big pumps pump to the whole system,” Carrasco said. “That’s what’s causing a lot of the water leaks, we believe.”

For Mayor John Ferguson, the fixes couldn’t come soon enough. He’s tired of the broken pipes and all the manpower and money that goes into fixing them.

“You’ll see water leaks here, there and everywhere,” he said. “There’s really nothing we can do until we get the system redone.” Some were quick fixes, while others required “heavy artillery, so to speak.”