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Authority plans to use reclaimed water in Grand Lakes

December 18, 2018

Grand Lakes 8,000 residents shouldn’t notice a difference next fall when the water used for public irrigation and to maintain their 27 lakes switches from potable to reclaimed.

“Green space will still be irrigated,” said Lindsay Kovar, engineer for the North Fort Bend Water Authority (NFBWA), and lake water will be maintained. “It’s just a different source of water. It’s treated to Type 1 reuse. Type 1 is safe for human contact and amenity lakes and streams that have wildlife.”

The authority plans the switch as part of its effort to reduce the use of groundwater and the related subsidence, or sinking of the ground, explained Kovar.

Communities with existing or proposed reuse systems within the authority’s boundaries include Grand Lakes, Long Meadow Farms, Cinco Ranch, Cross Creek Ranch, Firethorne, Waterside Estates, Lakemont Bend, Tamarron, Kings Lakes and Marshall Oaks and Cinco Southwest MUD. Kovar noted that only the Grand Lakes and Long Meadow Farm systems will be owned by NFBWA; the others are municipal utility district projects.

“This particular system will save 225 million gallons a year (in Grand Lakes),” Kovar said. One of the things the authority is big on is promoting water conservation and reuse, she said. “If you total all the capacity of reuse and conservation, it could make a big impact,” she said.

Conservation is a priority for the authority, said board president Peter Houghton, who’s one of several featured speakers in “Partners in Progress,” a West Harris County Regional Water Authority production. Visit http://www.whcrwa.com/ for details.

When water was inexpensive no one worried about how much they watered their lawn or how much water they used, he said. Because of the state requirement to convert from groundwater to surface water, the cost of water has increased and will continue to increase which is why Houghton emphasizes conservation.

Kovar said the Fort Bend Subsidence District conversion requirement is 60 percent surface water by 2025.

An earlier study showed that if the NFBWA could reduce consumption by 15 percent, it would save more than $400 million in future capital costs, Houghton said. The authority’s primary water users are municipal utility districts and Houghton said incentive programs that offer reduced water rates in return for conservation have been effective.

Saving money through conservation is counterbalanced by anticipated growth which will increase the need for water.

Kovar has figures to show the increased demand:

2017 demand: 12,725,136,405 gallons, or 34.86 million gallons per day

2012 demand: 11,473,661,935 gallons, or 31.43 million gallons per day

2007 demand: 7,014,885,862 gallons, or 19.22 million gallons per day

In “Partners in Progress,” Houghton said the county’s population of 250,000 is expected to double by 2040 and triple by 2080.

“The cheapest water we can find is the water we can save. The real challenge is to change people’s habits,” he said.

Projections show that reuse of water amounts to 10 percent of all water usage, which is significant, he said. “It’s water we don’t have to buy raw and have treated and then transported from Lake Houston,” he said.

Construction cost for the Grand Lakes project is $11 million, Kovar said. The authority is using money from the Texas Water Development Board Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Of the $11 million, $1.6 million is loan forgiveness or essentially grant funding, she said. “The remainder is low-interest bond funding at 1 percent.”

This project will not increase water rates for Grand Lakes residents. The authority will sell Grand Lakes the reused water at a rate 10 percent less than the groundwater pumpage fee. The groundwater pumpage fee rate is $3.35 per 1,000 gallons of water. Some authority customers pay a surface water fee of $3.70 per 1,000 gallons of water.

Those rates will each increase by 30 cents per 1,000 gallons on Jan. 1, however, because the authority is contributing to regional water projects under construction as part of the move from the use of groundwater to surface water. Those regional water projects include Northeast Water Plant expansion with an estimated cost of $1.775 billion and an 8-foot diameter, 39-mile long pipeline that will transport water from the Northeast Plant to West Harris County and North Fort Bend at a cost of $1.2 billion.

Kovar said, “North Fort Bend Water Authority’s share of the Northeast Water Plant Project is 21.4 percent and approximately 45 percent of the West Harris County Regional Water Authority’s pipeline otherwise known as the Surface Water Supply Project.”

As part of the Grand Lakes reclaimed water project, construction could start in January at the Fort Bend County Municipal Utility District 146’s wastewater treatment plant and includes an addition to the plant as well as a storage tank.

Officials are looking at a late spring or early summer construction start for the water distribution system because right of way needs to be obtained for approximately 50,000 linear feet of pipe with 6- to 12-inch diameters, Kovar said. Where the pipes will cross open space, officials plan to use open cut which is a less expensive procedure. Where development exists, officials will use directional drilling to minimize construction impact.

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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