Sunday, May 15, 2016

Staff Failed to Update Water Board on Current Water Supplies

San Angelo's Water Advisory Board recent agenda had a variety of topics but it lacked a most basic one, the amount of water currently available to meet anticipated water needs.  Citizen Scott McWilliams shared his assessment with the Water Board.  He projected the city has an anticipated 17 years of water between the current 30 months of surface water, expected rainfall (firm annual yield based on drought of record) and use of a fully developed Hickory Water field.

The Water Advisory Board narrowed their list of future water sources to five.  Three of those included Hickory Aquifer expansion, rehabilitation of the E.V. Spence Lake pipeline and using reclaimed water, known as direct potable reuse or toilet to tap. 

Former City Councilman and Water Advisory Board member Kendall Hirschfeld commented on Lake Spence pipeline rehab.

"My concern would be spending $20 - $30 million today and Spence continues to do what it has the last couple of years."

For the last couple years Lake Spence is up over 18 feet.  It holds 51,200 acre feet of water today, four times more than it did two years ago.

I don't fault Water Advisory Board members.  There's no evidence city staff updated members with area lake levels and storage volumes.

Currently, the City has 40,000 acre feet of banked Hickory water which must be used in the next nine years or it will be lost.  Water users paid increased base fees and tiered water use charges since 2011 to fund the Hickory project and its $120 million price tag. 

Water rates have and will increase dramatically to fund the city's next big water find to the tune of $136 million.  That happened to be the price of direct potable reuse. 

The State of Texas and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have money available to fund projects/studies.  The State has low interest loans for approved water projects.  The Bureau of Reclamation, which owns Twin Buttes Reservoir, has grant funds for reclaimed water studies.  City staff applied for the federal grant and asked for the Water Advisory Board's endorsement for their $300,000 request. 

It will be interesting to see how our leaders go forward in the water arena.  Will Water Board members plan to use banked Hickory water in a measured way before it expires?  Will they explore staff assumptions on surface water that reduced over 50,000 physical acre feet of surface water to a projected 30,000 acre feet, the two year supply?  So far, they've been a relatively quiet group.  Pretty soon there might be much to talk about.  After all, it is water in West Texas.

No comments: