Santa Fe City Council members said they hope a master plan will help put them on a path to expand water and sewer in a town where about half the population relies on septic systems.
“It’s absolutely critical to get the growth this town needs,” Councilman Bill Pittman said. “To get sewer is really important, though it’s the most expensive thing to do. It’s hard to have a business where a lot of the public is coming to it without sewer.”
The city council, along with the Santa Fe Economic Development Corp. and the Water Control Improvement District No. 8, today will hear from engineering firm Kimley-Horn on what it will cost to create a water and sewer master plan, City Manager Joe Dickson said.
“They’ll be coming in and giving us a scope of work and a proposal,” Dickson said. “If we decide to go with the engineer, we’ll have to decide how to fund such a study.”
Expanding the city’s water and sewer capacity has long been a pursuit of city officials.
Only about half the city’s residents get water and sewer service through the improvement district, the rest rely on wells and septic systems.
“For years, people have asked me why they can’t get water and sewer from the city,” Santa Fe Mayor Jeff Tambrella said in a 2016 meeting. “The only answer we’ve been able to give is that it’s expensive. We need a guide to show a long-term plan that we are working toward.”
City officials have cited cost of the infrastructure and limits on the amount of water available as obstacles that must be overcome to expand the system.
“Laying sewer lines is extremely expensive,” Dickson said. “Even more so than water lines.”
Water control district officials in 2016 said it would cost $100 a foot for a water and sewer line — $60 a foot for just sewer and $40 for water.
The water control district also has a 1-million-gallons-per-day contract with Gulf Coast Water Authority and would have to go elsewhere if the system exceeded that, officials said.
Santa Fe uses about 400,000 to 500,000 gallons a day in water, up to 700,000 in the summer, officials said.
Officials are attempting to devise a workable plan and Tambrella has said it will take a large bond to expand the city’s water and sewer system.
Despite the obstacles, the city’s growth makes it necessary to expand water and sewer, officials said.
“If we are looking to get commercial development and business in here, we are going to have to expand more than just the water system,” Dickson said. “You aren’t going to have businesses come in and build and have a water line up to them, but then they have to dig a septic system in back. That’s not going to work.”
Santa Fe had a population of 12,222 in 2010 and that number grew to about 13,200 in 2016, according to U.S. Census data.