Impacted by mandated water source reduction and conversion
By Elsa Maxey
In less than two years, those living in Sugar Land will be drinking treated water from Oyster Creek.
Sugar Land’s $69 million surface water treatment plant that is under construction near Burney and Voss Roads is closer to producing 9 million gallons of drinking water per day from Oyster Creek in response to mandated groundwater usage reductions. These come from the Fort Bend Subsidence District and require the city to shift from using groundwater to surface water. Many residents in the county already know that this is a move intended to reduce land subsidence caused by removing water from the ground and leaving an area susceptible to flooding.
But what some may not know is that conversion to surface water with the construction of a new treatment plant may also bring about water rate increases, and in Sugar Land, this will happen next year. “City customers are currently paying $0.76 per 1,000 gallons billed for the surface water rate,” states Jennifer Brown of Sugar Land’s Finance Department. In January, they will pay $1.42 per 1,000.
According to the city, water rates are adjusted from the pumpage fee that all participants pay into the surface water fund to account for water loss. Those sharing the regulatory mandate and participating in Sugar Land’s Groundwater Reduction Plan(GRP) include Sugar Land, New Territory, Greatwood, River Park, Tara Plantation, Riverstone and private well owners, home owners associations, and local businesses.
Brown explains that Sugar Land’s GRP must account for groundwater usage based on pumpage data, which is water pumped from the ground. She also said that water customers, however, are billed based on metered consumption at the service address.
A city utility customer using 11,000 gallons of water will see a 12% increase in a utility bill due to the surface water rate increase. The increase in the bill excludes solid waste, said Brown. A city’s example shows that for a resident who uses an average of 11,000 gallons monthly, the overall utility bill will increase from $60.52 to $67.77 per month, which is $7.25 or the 12% increase.
Sugar Land’s surface water treatment plant, expected to be operational in early 2013, represents one of the city’s largest and most complex capital improvement projects which, according to the city, took more than 10 years to plan.
While there are several surface water treatment plants in different phases of development by water providers throughout Fort Bend County, there is only one in operation. The Fort Bend Water Control and Improvement District No. 2’s treatment plant, considered a prototype, was launched this spring. It produces treated surface water from the Brazos River that primarily serves customers in the City of Stafford and a portion of them are in Missouri City.