OPINION — There’s some chatter around town that the City of San Angelo would be better served repairing a damaged pipeline that connects San Angelo to Lake Spence rather than developing the Concho River Water Project.
That’s an interesting idea … and one that was definitely considered.
As many of you know, water has been the City Council’s top priority for more than five years now. That includes not only shoring up our infrastructure via pipeline replacements, but securing additional water. That latter component is absolutely vital for the continued growth and development of our community.
In short, no employer wants to set up shop in a community with a precarious water supply.
So, the City hired a firm of water engineering experts to explore 24 possible options for increasing San Angelo’s supply beyond our reservoirs and the Hickory Aquifer. The three main factors they considered were: the amount of water each option could yield, the quality of the water (some was extremely brackish), and the cost.
After analyzing all the possibilities, the Concho River Water Project graded highest.
The project will involve releasing highly treated wastewater into the Concho River and recouping it farther downstream. From there, it will be sent to our water plant for further treatment before being delivered to customers.
That effort will provide an additional 7.5 million gallons of water per day. By comparison, San Angelo consumes an average of 12 million gallons per day. The Hickory pipeline can deliver 8 million gallons per day, although that capacity is being increased to 12 million gallons.
The river project will meet San Angelo’s water needs until at least the year 2070. In doing so, it will diversify our water portfolio, making our community more drought resistant. That is, we will not be so reliant on our four lakes – Ivie, Twin Buttes, Fisher and Nasworthy – for water.
As we’ve seen over the past decade, especially with Spence, relying upon reservoirs that are replenished by rainfall puts us in a vulnerable position during times of drought. Even with the plentiful rain we’ve enjoyed this year, Ivie is still only about 45 percent full, Twin Buttes is about half full, Fisher is at only 14 percent of its capacity.
The Concho River Water Project will be a reliable, sustainable resource; the more water we use, the more it will yield.
By giving us three varied supplies – surface water, groundwater and reclaimed water – we will not be overly dependent upon any one of them. No other city in our region can claim such a diversity of water sources.
The river project will cost an estimated $120 million. The City plans on financing the project through low-interest loans offered by the Texas Water Development Board. That’s the same method we used to pay for the Hickory Aquifer.
Supporters of the Spence pipeline note that repairing that vessel would cost a fraction of that $120 million expense. What they fail to recognize or state is the bulk of that cost is to pay for badly needed upgrades to our aging wastewater and water treatment plants. (Portions of the water plant are approximately 100 years old.) Those improvements must occur regardless of which supply we develop … or if we even develop another resource.
Further, Spence supporters also fail to note that, according to the state water plan, that lake has a zero yield under extended drought conditions. That means it could provide us no water in times of drought. Even after the abundant rainfall of late, Spence is still only about one-quarter full.
By contrast, the Concho River Project is drought-proof. It will be available even during the driest of times.
Our experts tell us the river project will improve the taste of our water. Our surface supplies contain salts and dissolved solids that impact our water’s aesthetics. In fact, in August, Spence had twice the dissolved solids and triple the salt compared to Ivie’s water. Because of the level of treatment it will undergo, the water to be released into the Concho River will be of a higher quality than the river water itself.
While releasing treated effluent for reuse may be a new concept for San Angelo, it is common across the state and nation. In fact, other communities release their treated effluent into the Concho and Colorado rivers, which flow into Ivie, our main water supply.
If you’d like to learn more about the Concho River Water Project, visit cosatx.us/WaterUtilities. We also have posted a couple of excellent videos about the project on the City of San Angelo YouTube channel.
Without a doubt, the Concho River Water Project is the best option for delivering more water to our community. I and your City Council remain steadfast in our commitment to see this project through to its completion.