With funding now accounted for, Wimberley is moving forward with the addition of sewer lines in downtown, as well as its proposed $7.5 million wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).
The joint project marks the city’s initiative to accommodate a growing population and downtown tourist presence that drives Wimberley’s sales tax revenue.
Located near the Blue Hole Regional Park, the wastewater plant will have the capacity to store up to 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater which will be used for irrigation throughout Blue Hole Park and surrounding areas. The plant will be able to treat up to 75,000 gallons of wastewater per day.
Currently, the city only has the capacity to treat up to 15,000 gallons of wastewater a day, 60,000 gallons less than the new plant will provide.
“We currently do not have an irrigation system going to Blue Hole beside nature,” said Shawn Cox, city administrator for the city of Wimberley. “This will help green-up our parks and store large amounts of water for when we need it.”
The project, which will cost the city just shy of $7.5 million, is primarily funded through loans. The city has received a $5.5 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) calling for the issuance of system revenue bonds, which pledges the city will use utility revenues to repay the debt.
The city was required to obtain a discharge permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the wastewater plant. The discharge point would be at Cypress Creek.
Cox said discharge will only be used as a last resort and the city doesn’t plan to see any foreseeable issues with discharge into the creek.
In addition to the (WWTP), the city will be adding sewage lines to the Wimberley Square to help alleviate concerns over water and restroom usage downtown.
The downtown area is currently on septic lines. There are portable bathrooms available and a permanent facility located in downtown, but the shops and merchants do not have their own restroom facilities for employees or customers.
For Michele Woods, owner of local coffee shop Sip! On the Square, the lack of sewage lines in downtown has hindered her ability to grow as a business.
“We have restrictions on how much water we can use, and as a coffee shop, you can see how that would be difficult,” Woods said. “If you’re here on any given morning and you count the heads that pop in asking for a restroom and it’s hard to say we can’t meet those needs.”
Woods compared the Wimberley septic woes to Austin’s traffic concerns. For years, Austin pushed off its traffic needs and ignored the problem, causing daily gridlocks and a constant battle for public transportation needs, she said. Wimberley is no different.
“This isn’t about Wimberley growing,” Woods said. “It’s about a fight to provide a service for our tourists and employees. Not having that sewer infrastructure hurts our businesses every day.”
As the city approaches the renovation process for downtown and the surrounding areas, construction will predominantly occur during the late hours of the night to help keep businesses open by day.
“We understand how important downtown is for our sales tax revenue and the city’s economy,” Cox said. “We are coordinating with our merchants and business owners to keep our downtown open during the process.”