TRWD sees future need for controversial reservoir

Jack Z. Smith Special Projects Reporter Fort Worth Business Press

Water conservation measures and other efforts are significantly delaying the need for securing a major new source of water for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but Tarrant Regional Water District officials said Tuesday that they still foresee a likely long-term need to obtain water from the controversial Marvin Nichols Reservoir proposed for northeast Texas. Conservation is the cheapest way to help ensure adequate water supplies, but the TRWD–which provides most of Tarrant County’s raw water–nevertheless likely will need “another large source of supply” from outside the Trinity River Basin in the long term, TRWD Government and Community Relations Director Linda Christie told the district board at its meeting Tuesday.

She specifically cited Nichols and the existing Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Texas-Louisiana border as potential future water sources. The gigantic Nichols reservoir would inundate nearly 70,000 acres in the Sulphur River basin between Mount Pleasant and Clarksville. The project has intense opposition in Northeast Texas because of the land it would gobble up and the huge volume of water it would transfer to thirsty cities in North Central Texas, where the population in a 15-county region is projected to nearly double by 2060. Wayne Owen, TRWD planning director, said the water district and regional water planners in North Central Texas still believe the Nichols reservoir should be included in a long-range regional water plan for the 15 counties, which include Tarrant and Dallas counties. But the timetable for completing the reservoir is “definitely being pushed back” and could be stretched from 2030 to 2040, Owen said Tuesday in a telephone interview with the Fort Worth Business Press.

Nichols’ estimated price tag is $3.4 billion. Potential particpants in a future effort to build it include TRWD; the North Texas Municipal Water District that serves Plano, McKinney and other cities; and Dallas. The Sulphur River Basin Authority, based near Texarkana, also could be heavily involved. Two of the state’s 16 regional water planning groups – Region C in North Central Texas and Region D in East Texas – have clashed over the Nichols project. Region C officials included Nichols as a potential future water source in its plan adopted in 2011, but the Region D group has objected, leading the Texas Water Development Board to issue a staff recommendation that Nichols be retained in the Region C plan and that the Region D group drop from its plan an objection to Region C including Nichols in its plan. The TWDB will hold a public hearing on the staff recommendation at 2 p.m. April 30 in Arlington, at the Bob Duncan Center at 2800 S. Center Street. The TWDB will hold a Region D public hearing at 2 p.m. April 29 in Mount Pleasant. Christie, leader of the TRWD’s growing water conservation efforts, praised Fort Worth’s recent decision to permanently restrict outdoor watering to no more than twice a week.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

She told TRWD board members Tuesday that the restriction will have more impact than any other potential water conservation measure in curbing consumption, based on findings in the TRWD conservation plan adopted in 2013. Another conservation measure cited as exceptionally effective is retail pricing of water that escalates its per-unit cost as usage levels rise, an approach that Fort Worth employs. Christie said conservation measures cost the TRWD and city of Fort Worth only 36 cents per 1,000 gallons saved, while a major district effort to boost its water supply delivery capability, the $2.3 billion Integrated Pipeline Project (IPL) currently under construction, costs $1.36 for each 1,000 gallons it increases delivery capability. The TRWD is partnering with Dallas Water Utilities on the IPL, which will boost by 52 percent, or 197 million gallons per day, the volume of water the TRWD can transport from its two biggest reservoirs, Richland-Chambers and Cedar Creek, in East Texas. The project will help delay the need to develop a major new source of water.

The TRWD is stretching water supplies by recycling highly treated water discharged to the Trinity River system by wastewater treatment plants. The water flows downstream and is further cleansed in wetlands adjacent to the Richland-Chambers reservoir, into which the water flows for re-use. A similar re-use facility is being developed at the Cedar Creek reservoir. The TRWD board approved three large contracts on Tuesday – including one with the Fort Worth-based Freese and Nichols engineering firm – for management support services for the IPL project. The contract with Freese and Nichols is for $5,515,194. The board also awarded a $7,775,531 contract to Lakewood, Colo.-based Toeroek Associates and a $6,199,222 contract to AECOM Technical Services, a unit of Los Angeles-based AECOM. The board voted to spend $173,490 for a study, led by Texas Christian University, to determine the economic impact from construction and operation of the IPL.