By Elsa Maxey
Surface water…it’s what we will be drinking more of in accordance with a policy by the Fort Bend Subsidence District to control subsidence on a regional basis. For almost 10 years now, those in this area have known that the use of groundwater will have to gradually decrease as a result of a state mandate.
Known as surface water conversation, this initiative is aimed at impacting flooding problems caused by the removal of water from underground aquifers. Latest reports state that groundwater withdrawals must be no more than 70 percent of total water demand by January 2014, and a year later, withdrawals must be reduced to no more than 40 percent of water demand.
In order to do it, water treatment plants have come into existence and some question just how much extra will it cost to get water pumped into their faucets.
Missouri City’s Regional Water Treatment Plant user fee is currently the lowest in the Houston-Galveston region at $1.40 per thousand gallons pumped, according to the city. Its $50 million Regional Water Treatment Plant, the city’s largest capital improvement project, is at a 40-acre site. It takes surface water from the Brazos River, treats it and sends it to water utility districts, which in turn provide it to their customers. This surface water treatment plant, which has received a Texas Public Works Association Project of the Year Award, became operational in February and recently underwent inauguration as city officials clinked their glasses filled with treated surface water in a toast celebrating the accomplishment.
In Sugar Land, “the treatment process is very similar to Missouri City’s plant but the daily production volume will be higher,” said city spokesperson Doug Adolph. He said the current Groundwater Reduction Plan fee is $1.32 per 1000 gallons. “It is anticipated to increase to $1.50 in January of 2013 and $1.75 in January of 2014.” Accounting for the difference between water produced and water billed, Adolph said, ” the surface water rates charged to customers of the city are recommended to be $1.61 per 1,000 gallons in January of 2013 and increase to $1.88 in January of 2014.” He said these are recommended rates and have not been adopted by City Council acknowledging that they may be subject to change.
The construction of Sugar Land’s $69 million surface water treatment plant near the intersection of Voss and Burney Road is underway and it is expected to be operational by about this time next year. Nine million gallons of water per day will be supplied to it from the Brazos River through the Oyster Creek canal system.
Adolph said the city has seven groundwater plants, but the surface water treatment plant will be the first plant in the city’s potable water system that treats raw surface water to drinking water standards. Not unlike the Missouri City new treatment system, the one in Sugar Land is the city’s largest, which Adolph reports is also one of its most complicated capital improvement projects.
Last year in April, the Fort Bend County Water Control and Improvement District No. 2 dedicated the first surface water treatment plant in Fort Bend County at a cost of less than $15 million. Located at an 80-acre site, it provides surface water to its customers mostly businesses and residents in Stafford, and some in Missouri City and others in extraterritorial jurisdictions, which have been drinking surface water from the Brazos River by way of the lakes in Sugar Land and the Gulf Coast Water Authority canals.
The plant is capable of producing three million gallons of water a day. Pecan Grove’s Surface Water Treatment Plant, with a surface water supply from the Brazos River Authority, underwent construction in 2010, which reports indicate was substantially completed in January to begin preparation for treated surface water to its customers.
Take note… There’s something a bit different with the water from these treatment plants…chloramines. Water disinfectant will change from chlorine to chloramines. Federal regulations now require the use of chloramines, which can be used on any water source and is the disinfection process for the new surface water treatment systems.
However, the use of chloramines impacts kidney dialysis patients while undergoing treatment and the water used in fish tanks and bowls, which will need to be removed for safe water use for both. Reports indicate that cities including Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth have used chloramine as part of their water treatment process for decades.
For more information about surface water conversion, interested persons are advised to contact their water service providers.