Corpus Christi now has the first water DNA testing lab in the nation. It can actually help predict problems in the City's water supply before they happen and basically ensure that our water remains safe to drink.

On Friday, the City's Water Department gave 3News a tour of the lab at the O.N. Stevens Water Plant.

"This lab gets into the specificity of the actual gene within the bacteria that could cause poor water quality," said Gabriel Ramirez, Assistant Manager of Water Quality and Treatment.

The City conducted the tour of the lab at the water plant to show how water is collected and tested.

"DNA testing was mainly used in crime labs. Some hospitals have used it for clinical studies and things like that," Ramirez said. "However, I'm happy to say that we are the first utility in the country to have DNA testing for water quality."

"In conjunction with all the other tests that we do, this helps us be proactive," City Water Director Clarence Witwer said. "We can see something before it happens. Get a jump on it. Possibly head the problems off before they even start, or get enough notice that we can get out to the public and tell them we might be having a problem."

The equipment cost about $30,000 and operating costs run about $40,000 for the department to do around a thousand tests each year. The City has been eliminating dead end water mains, about 35 of the largest this year alone, and that has been a major factor in stagnant water.

"The dead end mains is really one of your biggest probelms. The water doesn't move. It gets stagnant," Witwer said. "Just as you mentioned, the bacteria starts having a field day and that's one good thing about the DNA tests. It's going to give us a jump on when they start having their field day."

The City said the DNA testing lab is just one of many ways they will be able to predict a problem in the future.