The city council heard the results from a yearlong study on reclaimed water yesterday morning. Bill Riley, water utilities director and Ellen McDonald, Professional Engineer with Alan Plummer Associates presented the council with the facts, findings and plan of action.
“As you know the state has received some much needed rain and for the most part the state is not in drought anymore,” Riley said. “Unfortunately there’s an oval [within] the state that is still in severe drought and that includes San Angelo. While the rains have been very good they have done little to replenish the water supply in our lakes, we continue to see them at less than 20 percent and they continue to decline.”
As tropical storm Bill makes its way from the Gulf of Mexico and dumps heavy rains east of San Angelo, Riley says the city is unlikely to receive a substantial amount of rainfall from it. He also says the city must continue looking for additional water supplies as the drought is still a very real thing for San Angelo, hence how the reclaimed water study was birthed as a water conservation idea last year.
The council approved the water study that began a little over a year ago with Alan Plummer and Associates, Inc. Dr. Ellen Mc Donald, a professional engineer who holds a Ph.D. as well as a Masters in water resources from Stanford has worked with the company for almost sixteen years and is one of the leading experts in the U.S. on reclaimed water supplies. She presented the results of the evaluation to the council, as she did on June 3 at the water advisory board meeting.
McDonald explained that Texas itself is in water debt. As the population grows, the overall supply decreases and demand increases, creating water woes for Texas that are far from over. She showed a chart that depicted the supply and demand for water needs on a statewide level in the future through 2060. As time progresses, the red bars on her chart indicating demand tower over the blue bars representing the existing supply.
“San Angelo is not in the sweet spot for precipitation in the state, and so as you move further west, it's more of a challenge to maintain those water supplies especially if you rely on surface water,” McDonald said. “If you look at the Texas drought monitor, you might think that the drought is almost over. If you compare it to what it looked like in 2011, it’s much, much better now.”
The drought map she displayed showed Texas in 2011 swallowed in D4 exceptional drought conditions. The updated map from May 26 shows the majority of the state has come a long way since. But the map showed San Angelo and many counties east and northeast remaining in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions.
While the city is not in the dire straits it was four years ago, it clearly is not out of the red.
“You can see that statewide, the reservoir capacity is about 84 percent, and what’s bringing that capacity down is the area right around San Angelo in that circle,” she said referring to a state reservoir water supply map. The map used the color blue to show areas where the water capacity in reservoirs is over 70 percent full, and red to show reservoirs that below 20 percent full. “All of those red [areas] are San Angelo water supplies. The drought is not over as far as the water supply in San Angelo [shows].”
Every water supply that the city has is below 20 percent capacity. McDonald presented a reservoir capacity chart for San Angelo’s reservoirs that showed O.H. Ivie at 14.6 % capacity, O.C. Fisher at 12.7%, E.V. Spence at 5.3%, and Twin Buttes Reservoir at 6.0% as of May 30.
“Looking at how much water San Angelo has used over the past five years, on this graph, shows the blue bars are the precipitation and the red line represents demand,” she explained, showing another power point graph. “The one thing I wanted to point out here is that the demand was a little higher in 2011 because the precipitation was so low. But even though the precipitation from 2012 to 2014 had declined the demand hasn’t really increased; it stayed pretty steady. And so that shows that the citizens are really taking the drought seriously and are conserving the water. I think that’s something you should be proud of.”
McDonald says the state forecasts the drought conditions to affect the city in the future creating a water supply deficit. “Even if you were to get a lot of rain all of a sudden and this drought would break from a long term perspective, there will be another drought and the supply just isn’t there to meet the needs of [another] drought. You do have the benefit of the Hickory Aquifer and that can be used in a drought situation, but it doesn’t provide a long term solution in aiding in future drought.”
She discussed non-potable reuse (NPR), indirect potable reuse (IPR), and direct potable reuse (DPR) of reclaimed water and the many stages of treatment; giving examples for each in cities they are implemented.
However, McDonald’s recommendation was to implement DPR, based on the city’s surrounding area, reuse alternatives and cost. DPR enlists the help of reclaimed water that is piped directly from a wastewater treatment facility to a drinking water treatment and distribution system. This means that the citizens of San Angelo will be using highly treated water that originated from sewer inflow and a various combinations of domestic, industrial, commercial and agricultural activity.
The cost estimation for Phase 1 which would include 9 million gallons per day will cost $136.7 million. Phase 2 is estimated at $16.6 million for an additional 3 million gallons per day.
She provided a multi-phase schedule for achieving the project, beginning with pilot testing at an estimated cost of about $1.2 million.
The water advisory board voted unanimously on June 3 to recommend that the city commence with the pilot testing, which would include entering into a contract with the consulting team to conduct the testing.
As far as funding from the state goes, San Angelo missed out on funds in 2012 because there was not a definite plan in place and the state will only fund projects that are ready to go. “There were a lot of projects that had been in the works for some time and so they were naturally moved to the front for that first round of funding, which was about 8 million dollars,” said Riley. “We will submit for the next round of swift funding we have the application now.”
It was decided by the council unanimously to give Riley the authority to enter negotiations between the city and contractor for the final costs of the pilot testing portion of the multi-phase plan only and bring them back to council in July. Riley also said he would have more answers about funding at that time.
“We live in the desert out here and they will fill eventually, but they’ll also go empty eventually,” Rodney Fleming said about area reservoirs. “We are always going to be in this position where we are needing water in the future, and this is not so much even really thinking about us, we are thinking about our kids and grandkids and their future, this is the future. Reuse of water is made for cities, and the United States will be doing this in the coming years. It’s water that’s already here, its water we use and will reuse again.”
The city council unanimously approved authorization for the city manager to negotiate a contract with Alan Plummer Associates for pilot testing.