News

$500 -mil water project planned

Brazos River Authority plans to buy 35,000 acres in Milam, Lee to meet future demand
By KEN ESTEN COOKE Reporter Publisher

A giant water supply project, costing as much as $530 million, is in the planning stages and land buys totaling 35,000 acres are planned for Milam and Lee counties.

The project is part of a decadeslong plan by the Brazos River Authority to address expected population growth in the Williamson County area. Funding for $100 million for land acquisition for the massive project to be headed by the Brazos River Authority, was approved recently by the Texas Water Development Board.

The project is not part of plans for a reservoir near Cameron, said Judy Pierce, Brazos River Authority spokesperson. Speculators believe that much of the land could be Sandow Mine land that Alcoa has reclaimed and still ow ns water rights.

“This project is called the Granger Lake Conjunctive Use project and will supply water in addition to supplies provided by that lake,” Pierce said. The plan calls for getting 30,000 acre-feet of water annually permitted in the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (Milam and Burleson counties) and the Lost Pines GCD (Lee and Bastrop).

“With conjunctive use, we would use Granger water first, then draw on these future supplies,” Pierce said. “If we have a very wet year, we will not need to draw on them as much. But if we have a dry year, like last But if we have a dry year, like last year, we would.”

In its financial request to the Water Development Board, the Brazos River Authority wrote “physical delivery of groundwater wil likely not be needed until the 2025-2030 timeframe.”

Where the first water may not be delivered for 15 years, the project poses a large competitive hurdle for Blue Water Corp. and EndOp, who have sought pipeline deals from this area to the growing Austin metroplex suburbs.

Pierce said B.R.A. officials had looked at many plots of land, but nothing was under contract as yet. “We’ve been looking at property for a number of years,” she said. “Some are working out, and others are not.” Pierce said the land is in several different areas, not a contiguous swath of acreage.

The B.R.A. would use the water for municipalities that show a need. Travis County is not in the B.R.A. territory, she added, but falls under the Lower Colorado River Authority jurisdiction.

“Right now, we’re fine, but projections for the future show we will need to access additional water,” Pierce said.

Williamson County had an estimated population of almost 400,000 in 2008 and its median household income is higher than the state average ($68,000 for Williamson compared to $47,500 for the rest of the state).

The spokesperson also said the project would be done entirely by B.R.A., not as a partnership between it and several other water marketing firms that are also eyeing the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer supplies.

Post Oak Savannah GCD Manager Gary Westbrook was aware of the project but said he did not want to comment at this stage.

Brazos River Authority

The Authority was created in 1929 and is responsible for developing, conserving and managing water resources throughout the entire Brazos River Basin, a 1,050 swath of land extending from 50 miles west of the Texas-New Mexico border to the Gulf of Mexico. The basin includes over 4,200 square miles of land.

The Authority owns and operates three reservoirs — Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Granbury and Lake Limestone — and has water rights in nine federal reservoirs: Lakes Whitney, Belton, Proctor, Waco, Somerville, Stillhouse Hollow, Granger, Georgetown and Aquilla.

Together, these 12 reservoirs have conservation storage of 800 billion gallons of water.

The Authority contracts to supply water from these reservoirs on a wholesale basis to municipal, industrial and agricultural water customers.

Population within the authority’s jurisdiction is an estimated 1.8 million.

TWDB

The Texas Water Development Board is the state agency charged with collecting and disseminating water-related data, assisting with regional planning and preparing the State Water Plan for the development of the state’s water resources.

The TWDB administers financial programs for the construction of water supply, wastewater treatment, f lood control, and agricultural water conservation projects.


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2010-03-04 digital edition



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