After more than 20 years of planning, Pearland workers will soon be able to treat and pump the city’s own surface water, decreasing its dependence on buying water from Houston.

The backstory

Located just south of Magnolia Parkway in Rosharon, the $175 million Surface Water Treatment Plant will pump 10 million gallons of water per day for Pearland.

In 2022, supply chain setbacks pushed the construction timeline back over a year.

However, once safety inspections are passed and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approves the plant’s initial water samples, it will be fully operational to service the city’s water needs by January, Plant Manager Shaun Gilmore said.

The city pumps 34 million gallons of water per day, sourcing its water from underground wells in Pearland and buying water sourced from the Trinity River Basin from Houston.

The plant will draw water from the Gulf Coast Water Authority’s American Canal, which is ultimately sourced from the Brazos River Basin.

Zooming in

Pearland receives 16 million gallons of water per day that is sourced from the Trinity River Basin and treated in Houston before being pumped to one of Pearland’s two receiving stations.

While building and operating the plant is a significant investment for the city, ultimately, City Manager Trent Epperson said Pearland is playing the long game to have more sovereignty over how the city sources and treats the water its growing population of 130,000 people uses.

“Municipalities who don’t develop their own means to acquire water on their own ... like we’re doing ... are at the mercy of the contractors that they’re purchasing water from,” Communications Director Josh Lee said.

By the numbers

While city officials said they hope the new plant will save money in the long run, Pearland residents saw their water rates go up 14% this year and 13% last year to pay for water infrastructure, including the Surface Water Treatment Plant.

Pearland residents aren’t the only ones who will pay more for their water; recently, Manvel officials announced residents would pay a 14.9% higher base rate for their water bills, citing rising infrastructure and maintenance costs.

Of all the sources from which Pearland draws its water, the wholesale water it purchases from Houston is the most costly to the city, Epperson said.

While savings were a contributing factor to Pearland’s decision to build the Surface Water Treatment Plant, Epperson added that diversifying the city’s options in the event any one source is compromised, such as a groundwater well going down, was a major factor in investing in new water infrastructure.

What you need to know

At any given time, the Surface Water Treatment Plant will have five operational staff and anywhere from three to five maintenance staff, Gilmore said.

“The plant will run 24 hours a day between Monday and Saturday, and it will be off for four hours on Saturday and [Sunday],” Gilmore said.

The plant will send the water to pumping stations at Kirby Drive and FM 521 where it will be pumped throughout the city.

One more thing

The plant is the first pumping station in the city to have its own full-functioning lab for testing water quality, with a pipe that brings water directly to the lab. The other pumping stations have only portable instruments.

The plant’s operations building will also serve as a shelter for first responders and city staff during a natural disaster.

In the future, the plant will be expanded to double its water pumping capacity to 20 million gallons per day, Gilmore said.

“The main thing for [doubling capacity] is getting an extra basin here, and then pretreatment capacity will be doubled,” Gilmore said.

A date to build the additional basin and double the pumping capacity of the Surface Water Treatment Plant has not yet been set.