City IDs, pursues next water supply
The City of San Angelo has identified the leading option for its next water supply and taken the first step toward its development.
The Concho River Water Project is a move to extend San Angelo’s sources beyond its lakes and the Hickory Aquifer. It will do so by adding a reliable and sustainable source that will help meet water needs for decades to come.
The project involves releasing highly treated water from the City’s wastewater treatment plant into the Concho River. After it has flowed down that “natural pipeline,” the water will be recouped farther downstream. From there, it will be piped to the water treatment plant, where it will be treated to drinking standards.
“This is water San Angelo already has,” said attorney Jason Hill, the City’s special counsel for water. “We’re just able to make better use of it. It’s a win-win for the community.”
On Sept. 18, the City Council unanimously agreed to pursue state permits that will ensure the water is treated to adequately high standards before its release into the river.
Prior to recommending the Concho River project, engineers and City staff studied 24 possible water supplies. Those included surface water, groundwater and direct reuse. The experts and City officials concluded the Concho River Water Project is a reliable and cost-effective source, will produce water with an improved taste, can be developed relatively quickly, and utilizes proven science. Cities have long released their treated wastewater downstream into streams, rivers and lakes. Treated wastewater from Ballinger, Robert Lee and Winters, for instance, flows into San Angelo’s primary water source, Ivie Reservoir.
“We are releasing it into the Concho so we have what we call an environmental buffer,” said Scott Hibbs, principal water resource engineer with eHT, an Abilene engineering firm. “So we’re letting Mother Nature take care of some of the treatment aspects.”
Securing state permits could take as little as two to three years. Completing the entire project could take about five years and will cost about $120 million dollars. That includes upgrades to the water and wastewater treatment plants. Those improvements would be needed regardless of which new water source was chosen.
When completed, the Concho River Water Project will produce about 7.5 million gallons per day. By comparison, the Hickory Aquifer is currently capable of producing 8 million gallons per day, although that is being expanded to 12 million gallons. San Angelo averages about 12 million gallons of daily usage.
Work continues by the West Texas Water Partnership to develop a long-term source that can serve San Angelo, Abilene and Midland. The Concho River Water Project will help meet local water demands for about the next 50 years.
“This takes San Angelo a long ways down the road of water security,” Hill said. “And when I say a long ways, I’m talking generationally … 2060, 2070.”
The project will also diversify San Angelo’s portfolio of water sources. Because the City will not be dependent upon any one source of water, San Angelo will be better able to weather times of drought.
City seeks water customers who earned conservation discounts
The Water Utilities Department is seeking to refund $284,138 to 25,031 water customers who did not receive conservation discounts they have earned since 2009.
The average credit owed is $11.35 per customer. In total, 14,225 customers with active accounts are owed $197,557. Another 10,806 non-active account holders are owed $86,581. Active customers will be credited the amount they are due during their next monthly billing cycle. The names of former water customers who earned discounts are published here, along with information about how they can claim their credits.
Water customers earned a conservation discount up to $3.32 for each month from 2009 to the present in which they used no more than 3,000 gallons. The credits were not received because of a coding error in the water billing system.
“We apologize to our customers for this oversight and understand the frustrations this news will cause,” Water Utilities Director Allison Strube said. “We are doing and will do all we can to return what is rightfully theirs to our current and former customers. At the same time, we are taking measures to strengthen incentives to conserve water and to ensure this does not happen again.”
Some customers who had received the conservation discount contacted the Water Utilities Department after noticing the credit was missing from their monthly bill. During their investigation, City officials unearthed an error in a handwritten, 48-page computer code that a former City employee created in 2006 to determine who receives the discount.
The City has begun the process of refunding active customers. If an account closes prior to all the credits being used, the remaining balance will be returned to the customer.
“We encourage any customer who has questions about this to contact us,” Strube said. “We are trying to be as open and transparent about this as possible. Again, we apologize for this mishap and are willing to work overtime to make the customers who were impacted whole again financially.”
The Water Utilities Department plans to soon present to the City Council for its consideration an ordinance that would reward customers who actively conserve water.
“Many of the customers who earn the discount currently are not actively seeking to do so,” Strube said. “They manage to earn the credit simply by circumstance, such as the case with a realtor briefly needing water service for an inspection or a single person living alone in a home. We want to create a robust conservation program that encourages our customers to actively take steps to save water.”
The Water Conservation division educates the public on how it can make the most efficient use of San Angelo's public water supply in an effort to conserve and preserve the community's most precious natural resource.
Current drought level
As of Sept. 18, San Angelo is in standard conservation, which restricts outside watering to twice every seven days at no more than 1 inch per week and not between the hours of noon to 6 p.m. Runoff of more than 150 feet down any street, gutter, alley or ditch is also prohibited.
In effect when the city has more than 24 months of available water supply.
Allowable watering days:
April 1 through Oct. 31: Twice every seven days
Nov. 1 through March 31: Once every seven days
Allowable application rates: Up to 1 inch per week.
Prohibited watering hours: Noon to 6 p.m. April 1 through Oct. 31
Hand watering of lawns, gardens, landscape areas, trees, shrubs or other plants being grown outdoors or foundations may be done on any day, except during the prohibited watering hours of noon to 6 p.m., provided the allowable application rate of 1 inch per week is not exceeded.
Landscape or foundation watering with a drip irrigation system such as a soaker hose, deep root watering system, drip pipe or tape, or bubbler shall be permitted on any day and at any time of day provided that the total amount of water applied shall not exceed 1 inch per week.
Golf course greens may be watered daily except during the prohibited watering hours of noon to 6 p.m.
Water conservation videos
Water conservation tips with John Begnaud:
Water conservation tips
- Toilet leaks can be silent. Be sure to test your toilet for leaks at least once a year.
- Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak. Fix it and start saving gallons.
- If your toilet flapper doesn’t close properly after flushing, replace it.
- Do not flush your toilet unnecessarily. Throw your facial tissues in the trash instead of in the toilet.
- Look for WaterSense® labeled toilets, sink faucets and showerheads.
- Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.
- Turn off the water while shaving or brushing your teeth.
- Run your washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
- One drip every second adds up to five gallons per day! Check your faucets and showerheads for leaks. It’s simple, inexpensive and you can save 140 gallons a week.
- We’re more likely to notice leaky faucets indoors, but don’t forget to check outdoor faucets, pipes and hoses. If your water meter is moving even though all faucets are off, your house most likely has a leak somewhere.
- Leave lawn clippings on your grass. This cools the ground and holds in moisture. But don’t let this suffocate your lawn.
- Practice Xeriscaping. This method of landscaping uses plants which are native to your area or are naturally drought resistant.
- Aerate your lawn periodically. Holes every 6 inches will allow water to reach the roots, rather than run off the surface.
- Sprinklers should spray large drops close to the ground, rather than a fog or mist, which can be blown away by wind.
- Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation wherever possible.
- Watering plants deeply but infrequently encourages deep root growth and drought tolerance.
- Use mulch around plants and flowers. The mulch reduces evaporation and helps keep water near the roots of the plant where it is most beneficial.
- Do not over water. This means watching for puddles or runoff.
- Only water your yard. Concrete sidewalks and gutters don't grow. This may require readjusting your sprinklers or watering some areas by hand.