Othal Brand, Jr., is pictured on the banks of the Rio Grande River near the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 pump station in Hidalgo in June, 2013.

In 2004, Othal Brand, Jr., took an Oath of Office upon winning his first term as a Board Member of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District #3.

He immediately toured the pump station and facilities of the district and quickly noticed that the essential new pumping station was built at a height about six feet below the level of the IBWC levee.

After bringing this to the attention of his board, they approved raising these pumps, with backup engine generators, to a height above the level of the IBWC levee so that any catastrophic flooding would spill over the levee before flooding out these new pumps, thereby protecting the primary source of raw river water for the citizens of McAllen.

Just a few years later, this was put to an actual live test. After a hurricane, the river rose to a level which incapacitated one water district and rendered another water district to within inches of being breached. In fact, one of the districts capable of delivering water to the city of McAllen had to pull their pumps out of their pumping facility on the river.

It was the observing and preparing eye of Othal Brand, Jr., a farmer and former Boy Scout, that saved the Citizens of McAllen from having to pay for trucked-in water for three months due to inoperable pumps at every water district capable of providing water for the City of McAllen.

During those three months, Hidalgo County Water Improvement District #3 provided virtually 100 percent of the raw water used by the City of McAllen during the flood. Who was really looking out for you?

Another part of protecting our water supply is ensuring that the pumps and infrastructure are operable at optimum capacity and free from impairment, destruction, damage and sabotage.

With daily illegal drug and human trafficking crossing at or near the pumping station of McAllen’s main water provider, Mr. Brand aimed to eliminate this traffic. Step one was additional lighting at the pump station. Next was the installation of cameras on 40-foot towers for use by law enforcement. Also installed were concrete “Jersey Barriers” across the lawn, thereby blocking the almost daily high-speed vehicle traffic from the road, through the pump station and all the way near or into the river.

Mr. Brand then installed an all-weather road to the location for 24-hour access to the river. This, along with installation of the new Jaime Zapata Launch Point boat ramp at the pump station provided for ingress and egress at the river for law enforcement agencies who did not have that for 20-miles upstream nor downstream on the river.

A final piece of the puzzle was a very low-cost and ouside-the-box solution. It gets very hot here in the Rio Grande Valley in the summer months and especially in July and August, so Mr. Brand came up with the idea of installing an Ice Station, air hoses, water hoses and bathroom and shower access at the pump station location to help law enforcement personnel fight the heat and elements of the day. This resulted in almost continuous law enforcement traffic at the pump station and caused virtually all illegal traffic to move to other parts of the river, thereby protecting the primary source of raw river water for the Citizens of McAllen.

I ask again, who is really looking out for you?