resiliency on tap

City of Houston takes step toward resiliency with $1.7B project milestone

The plant has the capacity to provide the city with over 400 million gallons of clean drinking water daily due to the state-of-the-art intake pump system located 900 feet from the shore of Lake Houston. Photo courtesy of the Mayor's Office

A new project that will increase Houston's resilience in the face of climate change-driven storms has delivered.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Public Works and other water provider organizations celebrated the newly operational Northeast Water Purification Plant Expansion, which is the culmination of a $1.7 billion project.

The multi-year construction project began in 2017. The plant has the capacity to provide the city with over 400 million gallons of clean drinking water daily due to the state-of-the-art intake pump system located 900 feet from the shore of Lake Houston.

“Eight years ago, the city of Houston joined with four regional water authorities to invest over $1.7 billion to build what would become the largest public works water construction project in the nation,” Turner says in a news release. "The Northeast Water Purification Plant is an essential part of our city's infrastructure and growing resilience to the effects of climate change.”

The city of Houston partnered with the North Harris County Regional Water Authority, the West Harris County Regional Water Authority, the North Fort Bend Water Authority, the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority, the Texas Water Development Board, and many others. The Northeast Water Purification Plant is located in Humble, Texas.

Houston Public Works is responsible for, production and distribution of water, collection, and treatment of wastewater, and permitting and regulation of public and private construction, and streets and drainage.

“By increasing the City’s capacity to treat surface water and reducing dependence on groundwater, the project helps mitigate the risks associated with ground subsidence, such as increased flooding, damage to our roads, and other infrastructure issues,” Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock says in a news release.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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