Work on water pipelines nears end
Officials with three large water authorities say they are on schedule to replace 30 percent of water providers' groundwater usage with surface water in their respective boundaries in north, northwest and west Harris County by mid-2010.
In the past five years, the three entities the North Harris County Regional Water Authority, Central Harris County Regional Water Authority and West Harris County Regional Water Authority have been installing a network of pipelines to meet that goal.
As a result, their respective pumpage fees charged to water districts and cities to offset those infrastructure-related costs were increased as of Jan. 1. The pumpage fee is applied to every 1,000 gallons of water pumped from a water district or water provider's underground wells, and passed along to customers based on the amount of water used each month.
North Harris Authority
We are very pleased that every one of our 2010 Water Distribution and Transmission System projects is completed or near completion," said North Harris County Regional Water Authority General Manager Jimmie Schindewolf. We are about ready to go online with our surface water delivery system."
The North Harris County Regional Water Authority was formed in 2000 to guide about 160 north Harris County municipal utility districts through a surface-water conversion process mandated by the Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District in its 1999 conversion plan. Those MUDs have for years pumped water from underground wells, and the Subsidence District's goal is to dramatically decrease the region's dependence on underground water.
By 2030, the north authority will have in place a massive pipeline system that replaces 80 percent of the groundwater used by residents and businesses in an area bordered by U.S. 290 on the west, the Harris County line/Spring Creek on the north, FM 1960 and Bammel-North Houston on the south and the western shores of Lake Houston on the east with water from Houston's northeast water treatment plant on Lake Houston.
When the final projects are completed this year, the 2010 system will have about 78 miles of water pipeline in the ground and two pump stations constructed. That includes an 8-mile pipeline that runs from Beltway 8 to just east of U.S. 59. The north authority partnered with the city of Houston on the pipeline project, which bridges a gap between a line coming out of the city's northeast treatment plant and the north authority's border.
Schindewolf said 60 municipal utility districts in the north authority's boundaries would be converted as part of that 2010 mandate, and those serve neighborhoods in an area bordered by Interstate 45 on the east, Texas 249 on the west, Spring-Cypress Road on the north and FM 1960 on the south. The north authority will begin delivering surface water to the first five districts located near Walters Road and FM 1960 by the end of January.
Then it will be a day-by-day exercise," Schindewolf said. As districts complete the work they need to do on their water plants in order to receive surface water, we will start delivering it to them."
About 460,000 residents in north and northwest Harris County will see an increase on monthly water bills early this year due to a recent north authority fee increase to $1.75 per 1,000 gallons of well water pumped, or $2.20 per 1,000 gallons of surface water delivered to water districts.
In the seven years I have been here, our goal has been to finish the projects by 2010, and I feel we have been successful," Schindewolf said. The next goal is to make the jump from 30 percent (conversion) to 70 percent by 2020.
Paul Wallick, the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority's engineer, said the central authority is on target to complete its 2010 pipeline and transmission system by mid-2010. To date, 5.5 miles of pipeline have been installed.
To cover construction and conversion costs, the central authority raised its pumpage fee to $1.13 per 1,000 gallons of well water pumped. That fee went into effect Jan. 1 and is being charged to 11 water districts, which serve about 26,000 residents, in an area north of Beltway 8, south of FM 1960, west of Interstate 45 and east of Texas 249.
Wallick said four of those MUDs Harris County MUD 150, Harris County MUD 217, Rankin Road West MUD, and Harris County MUD 200 are part of the 2010 conversion plan. However, he said, Harris County MUD 399 and Harris County MUD 205 will be part of that conversion because they are tied into MUD 200's system.
As with the north and west authorities, seven years ago the central authority signed a deal with the city of Houston and locked in a long-term surface-water supply source from the city's northeast water treatment plant.
The central authority also paid a fee to be part of the Greens Road pipeline from U.S. 59 to Beltway 8, and has a meter at the end of that line at the north authority's Spears Road pump station. That is the starting point for the central authority's delivery system.
West authority engineer Wayne Ahrens said the West Harris County Regional Water Authority is delivering surface water to 32 water districts in an area that covers the Copperfield, Horsepen, the Colonies, Bear Creek, Hearthstone and Deerfield communities.
The water is delivered from the city of Houston's east water treatment plant.
Ahrens said the west authority conversion rate is at 25 percent, and will reach the 30 percent requirement by the end of the first quarter of this year. When the 2010 system is complete, surface water will flow to 32 MUDs.
The west authority was created in 2001 to guide 100 west Harris County MUDs and the city of Katy through the surface water conversion process. Those districts are located in an area bordered by U.S. 290 on the north, the Harris County line on the west and south, and the city of Houston on the east
As of Jan. 1, the west authority had installed 51 miles of water pipeline.
Ahrens said in the next two to three months the west authority will launch survey work on a major water pipeline project in the west authority's boundaries that will run from the Grand Parkway in west Houston to the city of Houston's northeast water treatment plant.
In 2006, the west authority purchased the 44-mile-long dormant natural gas pipeline easement from Exxon Mobil Corp. that runs from Oates Road north of Wallisville Road through the city of Houston into the west authority's boundaries.