THE SEARCH THAT NEVER ENDS
San Angelo's water supply is a constant focus of attention.
By Rashda Khan
Water is precious in West Texas and while San Angelo has to be vigilant, it’s still a sort of an oasis in the area.
The city ordinarily pumps between 10 million and 14 million gallons of drinking water daily, depending on seasonal demand. The local drinking water comes from two main sources — surface and groundwater.
Surface water sources include several local lakes — O.H. Ivie Reservoir, Twin Buttes Reservoir, Lake Spence, Lake Nasworthy, and O.C. Fisher Reservoir. There are approximately 70 miles of pipeline from Ivie, which is the primary source, to San Angelo’s water treatment facility. The city receives between 9 million and 30 million gallons of water per day from Ivie.
The city also gets supplemental water from the Hickory Aquifer project, which came on line in mid-2014. The water utilities system is using about 1.5 million gallons of the aquifer water a day, the minimum flow needed to keep the specialized treatment plant in operation.
Available water supply is based upon the amount of surface water available in local lakes, plus the 1.5 million gallons per day from the Hickory Aquifer.
San Angelo’s Water Advisory Board is discussing hiring an independent third-party consultant to help identify long term water supply and create a management plan that future city councils can reference for the next 10 years.
The board and local officials continue to work to identify additional sources of water. The following are some areas of focus:
The city is considering developing the Hickory Aquifer to its maximum potential of 12 million gallons per day, which would involve drilling five more wells at an estimated cost of $38.8 million. The cost, based on engineering estimates, includes drilling the wells, connecting pipeline and an upgrade to the treatment facility to handle the additional water. However, if the project is worked on incrementally, the cost could be cheaper, depending on the number of wells drilled.
Currently, the city has 15 wells with the capacity to produce 10.8 mgd. The treatment plant, which has the capacity to remove iron and radium from 8 mgd, is currently treating approximately 1.5 mgd.
Another project in the works is monitoring the flow of water through the Red Arroyo to determine the viability of capturing and treating its stormwater. Wastewater Reuse
The city is wrapping up a $1.2 million wastewater reuse pilot project this summer and the results will be filed with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The data will remain on file and available if needed in the future.
West Texas Water Partnership
The city continues to participate in the West Texas Water Partnership, pursuing a regional water source that could serve San Angelo, Abilene and Midland, along with some surrounding communities.
Other projects considered as possible future supplemental water supplies:
• Lipan Aquifer, a minor aquifer that lies partly in Tom Green County.
• Brackish water, Whitehorse and Clear Fork formations.
• Spence transmission line rehabilitation.
• West Texas Water Project/Abilene.
The Advisory Board and city staff are working on a rewrite of San Angelo’s drought contingency ordinance. The proposed revision will adopt conservation measures that are not triggered solely by the amount of available surface water and encourage efficient usage of water, which is San Angelo’s most precious natural resource.