Sunday, June 12, 2016

Will Water Board Put Brakes on Reclaimed Water?

The City of San Angelo's began exploring wastewater reuse a decade ago.   Most area citizens have only been aware of efforts the last two years.

In May 2014 City Council approved the hiring of Allan Plummer Associates to conduct a reclaimed water use study for a price not to exceed $190,000.  Allan Plummer's initial reclaimed water study for San Angelo occurred in 2006.  The 2006 study suggested putting treated water into Twin Buttes Reservoir.  The 2015 version puts treated water directly back into our water pipes.  This process has been referred to by opponents as "Toilet to Tap."

October 2014 found the city employing Raftelis Consulting to ensure citizen's water bills would rise enough to pay the $136 million needed to implement the use of wastewater for drinking purposes. Yes, there were verbal machinations over "not naming" a specific project but the funding happened to be enough for the reclaimed water project.  Raftelis's study cost an initial $90,000 plus an additional $17,000. 

The City's Water Advisory Board got a complete remake in April 2015.  It's not clear what sins the former board committed as they only met at staff's pleasure.   Several members did complain to Council about not meeting.  That's when staff and Council flushed the Water Board.

City staff updated the newly appointed Water Advisory Board on reclaimed water in their initial meeting.  The Board recommended a reclaimed water pilot study for direct potable reuse, estimated at $1.1 million, in June 2015.  In three week's time the pilot project added $100,000 in costs. 

On June 24, 2015, the COSADC Board approved an allocation of One Million Two Hundred Thousand and No/100 Dollars ($1,200,000.00) of sales and use tax proceeds for cost to be incurred by CITY in conducting a pilot test for the design of direct potable reuse of reclaimed water.

The reconstituted Water Advisory Board met in February 2016 to consider one strategy for San Angelo's future water supply, reclaimed water.  Staff failed to mention the possibility of further expansion of the Hickory Aquifer well field as a means to ensure future water supplies.

The Water Advisory Board stepped back to consider a number of other options, which they've done the last few months.   Water Chief Bill Riley will share options with the Water Board, including further Hickory expansion on Tuesday, June 14th.

The City of San Angelo's website currently states on its Water Utilities page::

Abundant rainfall in 2015 in no way diluted the need to urgently press forward in San Angelo’s efforts to secure more water. 

Our swath of West Texas is one of the few places in Texas where reservoirs remain at less than 20 percent of their capacity. In contrast, East and North Texas reservoirs are brimming with water. Unless significant runoff flows into O.H. Ivie Reservoir, San Angelo’s primary water source, it could be functionally dry next year. 

That underscores the continued need to diversify San Angelo’s water portfolio

And that’s exactly what we’re seeking to do

At the time of this writing, we are preparing to forward a recommendation from the Water Advisory Board (chaired by 2015 Citizen of the Year Mike Boyd) to the City Council that it approve a wastewater reuse project. That $136 million effort would make available to us approximately 7 million gallons per day. 
Recent rain runoff doubled the amount of water in Lake Ivie and area lakes are in better shape vs. a year ago.

Thus there is no current urgent need, no rush to pull the trigger on reclaimed water.  However, the project has momentum and staff have consistently pushed it as the solution.

The public will hear staff's update on current water sources and their ability to meet our water needs.  Hopefully Mr. Riley will share staff's assumptions in their predictions of how long our current supply will last.  While they failed to share all their math, staff assumed no rain and only counted surface water in making their prediction.  Thus, Hickory Aquifer water was not counted as a water resource.

The City's website states on Hickory:

In a worst-case scenario, the City could produce 9 MGD on a continual basis for five years before all the banked water would be used. Afterward, San Angelo would still be able to use its annual water allocation, which is currently 2,750 acre-feet per year. This amount increases to 5,000 acre-feet per year in 2021, to 10,000 acre-feet per year in 2026 and to 12,000 acre-feet per year in 2036.
The city has 40,000 acre feet of banked Hickory water, which will continue to grow as long as the city is minimally pumping.   The amount the city is allowed to carry in its Hickory bank will drop to 20,000 acre feet in 2026.  The Water Board must balance the reasonable use of Hickory water along with surface water supplies as it considers future water sources.

This week's Water Advisory Board will be interesting.  I look forward to watching the video. 

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