Sunday, April 03, 2016

Council to Take Up Drought Level 1 Designation

The Water Advisory Board recommended San Angelo enter Drought Level 1 which results in outdoor watering restrictions and a 10% increase in water rates.  Staff spoke to aspects of their methodology for saying the city has less than a 24 month water supply.  They chose not to share their calculations. 

The City's annual water use is approximately 15,000 acre feet. City staff provided the following information on lake volumes to the Water Advisory Board:

Lake Ivie - 68,671 acre feet (of which San Angelo gets 15.8%) 
Twin Buttes Reservoir - 21,287 acre feet (15,291 in North Pool and 5,996 in South Pool)
 Water Data for Texas revealed current lake volumes for:
O.C. Fisher - 18,209 acre feet
Lake Nasworthy - 8,117 acre feet

Also, the city has the rights to 3,000 acre feet at Lake Spence (46,868 acre feet) but no functioning pipeline to get the water to San Angelo.

It's not clear how city staff reduced well over 50,000 acre feet of surface water supply down to 30,000 acre feet.  Staff projections include two summers of wicked evaporation but no rainfall.

While staff deeply discounted surface water supplies, Hickory's Aquifer's below ground water was hardly counted.  The city chose to include only the minimal amount currently being pumped per day to keep the well field operational.  That's roughly 1 million gallons of water per day or just over 3 acre feet.

A slow pumping Hickory pipeline delivers 1,120 acre feet per year or 7.5% of the city's annual water usage.  I understand the logic of not counting subsurface supplies, the reserve that will support us through a long term drought.

It seems fair that the minimum pumped from Hickory should be subtracted from our annual water needs for drought pricing purposes. Remember the significant price increases for the Hickory pipeline?  Council chose to include conservation incentives in setting up that charge structure and citizens responded. 

Marking up Hickory water another 10, 20 or 30 percent hardly seems fair.

It appears the city may enter drought level restrictions without citizens understanding the methodology for calculating how San Angelo has less than 24 month supply of water.  Council will consider a proposal that showed a 26 month supply on 3-28-16.

More needs to be said and revealed on this topic because it hits citizens square in the pocketbook.

Water usage fees - determined by two factors: how much water a customer uses and what drought level the city is under. The water rate structure is tiered; as a customer uses more water, he pays a higher rate. Those tiers compress more when San Angelo is in Drought Level 1, 2 or 3; the higher the drought level, the quicker the customer reaches the next tier.
That shouldn't happen arbitrarily or prematurely.

City Council dealt with a prior failure to follow ordinance resulting in Republic Services overcharging commercial customer via unauthorized, thus illegal, fuel surcharges.  Ironically, Republic's illegal fuel charges and the $6 million refund occurred under the watchful eye of Public Works, which is also over water.

Council should proceed thoughtfully and within their legal scope, which they have the right to change in full public view.

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