The Final Well Nears Completion at the Hickory Aquifer

The final well at San Angelo’s Hickory Aquifer in McCulloch County is estimated for completion this summer.

Bill Riley, Water Utilities Director for the City of San Angelo, gave an update on the project going into the completion phase. He said the pipeline and water treatment facility have been operational since early 2015.

“All the wells are operational except the last one,” said Riley.

He said the well itself has been completed with the well driller being moved off site, and an additional contractor will work to connect the pipe running alongside the well. Additionally, all the electrical components will be fitted so the switch can be turned on to finish the project.

The city acquired the rights to the water from Ford Ranch in the early 1970s and later began to drill the nine wells sometime in the 1980s, Riley said. No water was consumed from these wells until last year.

“The [$121 million Hickory project] laid the pipe (from San Angelo) all the way to Melvin, put the well field piping in, and basically did everything there," Riley said.  

This included making the pump station, storage facilities, and drilling six additional wells, for a total of 15 wells to pump water to San Angelo.

The last well received delays due to the well driller having operational problems. Now awaiting the well to be completed, the project is estimated to be finished in June or July of this year, Riley said.

The Hickory project was designed to be a supplemental water supply; it was never intended to supply the full water demand for San Angelo.

The annual water requirements for San Angelo are about 13 million gallons per day, Riley said.  This is considerably less than where it has been in the past. A peek day this year, on average, was about 17 million gallons, Riley noted.

Acre-feet needed for thirsty San Angeloans is 14,500 annually. At 13 million gallons per day needed for the city, this equates to a total of approximately 40 acre-feet per day.

At the Hickory, the annual allocation per the groundwater permits is 12,000 acre-feet per year beginning in 2031. The current allocation is 2,750 acre-feet per year, increasing to 5,000 acre-feet in 2021.

In 2026, the allocation increases to 10,000 acre-feet, and then ultimately tops out at 12,000 acre-feet per year in 2031. 

The maximum capacity of San Angelo’s Hickory water wells is 10.7 million gallons per day. This equates to just over 12,000 acre-feet per year in water supply.

San Angelo Avg. Water DemandHickory Water Pumping CapacityAllocation Cap until 2021
40 acre-feet/day33 acre-feet/day7.53 acre-feet/day (avg.)*

*Note: The table above does not take into consideration water allocations the City of San Angelo owns from “banking,” or not using previous years’ allocations. The City of San Angelo has about 40,000 acre-feet banked. The allocation cap number assumes pumping at maximum capacity 365 days year round with a 2,750 acre-feet per year cap.

Other Water Sources

The city is about to release a consultant’s study of the Red Arroyo water capture, deep water storage project. Riley isn’t bullish on its prospects.

The Red Arroyo project is not what San Angelo needs to fill the gaps in its water requirements, he argues. For the project to work, it requires rain. Based on the city’s data, most of the time, the Arroyo tanks would not be filled, Riley said.

The Water Advisory Board and the city council will continue discussion on this project going into April, Riley said.

With the end in sight for the Hickory, Riley reflected on the end goal of the project, saying it was never meant to be more than a supplemental water supply.

“It just can’t meet the daily demands, but if we had to rely upon it as the only water source, we could,” Riley said. With some additional upgrades involving the expansion of the treatment facility, San Angelo water demands could be met during the winter months using solely the Hickory water. 

The Hickory’s pumping capacity is roughly about 10.7 million gallons, or 33 acre-feet, of water per day. This is slightly less than the current average daily water demand for the city (40 ac-ft.).  

“If we had the full capacity of the Hickory, we could meet our current wintertime daily average (of water usage) with the Hickory utilizing all facilities with no back up. Nobody would be irrigating. We would be pretty stringent on our conservation and would be at the maximum drought level,” Riley said.

Using water from the Hickory Aquifer at full capacity year-round will exceed the city’s current annual water rights allocation, though. Until 2021, the city can retrieve 2,750 acre-feet annually. Right now, the City’s water department is banking most of that allocation in case of a water shortage. If it doesn’t use its allocation in 2016, for example, the city can draw 5,500 acre-feet in 2017, and so on. The City of San Angelo currently has approximately 40,000 ac-ft. of Hickory water banked from its unused annual allocations.

The city is seeking the most drought-resistant projects, similar to the water reclamation project Riley has advocated. For the last several weeks, Riley has laid out all of the known projects his team has at their disposal for the council to consider.

This includes brackish water, new ground water opportunities, and new surface water opportunities. These suggestions are compared using estimated costs and how realistic the projects can be overall. So far, Riley contends that water reclamation presents the most realistic option. It will generate 6-8 million gallons per day, or 50-55 percent of the city’s current water demand according to our calculations.

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