Water: Do We Have Enough?

Imagine turning on the faucet for a drink of water and nothing comes out.

Most people take for granted that water will always be available. But, population projections for just 50 years from now suggest that much of Texas will not have sufficient water to meet the daily needs of this growing population.

For more than a decade the Brazos River Authority has worked with the state’s regional water planning groups to determine the needs of the Brazos basin and begin formulating ways to develop this resource.

The 42,000 square miles of the Brazos River basin span three of these regional planning areas, Regions O, G and H. Each of these regional plans has projected a lack of sufficient water in some areas, prompting the Authority to develop two major projects to help ensure that water continues to flow within our basin.

Allens Creek Reservoir

Located on Allens Creek, a tributary of the Brazos River in Austin County, Allens Creek Reservoir was originally permitted in 1974 to be developed as a cooling lake for a nuclear power plant. When these plans were abandoned in the 1980s, the property was purchased by the Authority and the City of Houston as a water storage reservoir.

The reservoir is expected to contribute approximately 100,000 acre-feet of water to meet municipal, industrial, and agricultural needs in the lower Brazos River basin at an estimated cost of $195 million; $97 million of which is expected to be funded through loans from the Texas Water Development Board. The sale of municipal bonds by the Authority and the City of Houston will fund the remaining construction costs.

The 9,500-acre reservoir located just off-channel of the Brazos River will be built and operated by the Authority with 70 percent of the water available for use by the City of Houston. The remaining 30 percent will be available on a contractual basis through the Authority.

System Operations Permit

Though the new reservoir is expected to add additional water to the reserves in the Brazos basin, if approved by the state, the Authority's System Operations Permit is expected to make even more water resources available through a more efficient use of current water supplies within the basin.

In 2003, the Authority began modeling potential usage of water currently unpermitted by the state. The outcome indicates that additional reliable water is available within the basin and may be created through the use of currently available return flows, the permitting of previously unappropriated water within the Authority's existing reservoirs and improved efficiencies in the operation of Authority's existing reservoirs as a system.

If approved, the permit could make approximately 421,000 acre-feet of additional water available for use throughout the basin. As part of the requested permit, the BRA has pledged up to 100,000 acre-feet of interruptible water to the Texas Water Trust to ensure preservation of aquatic life and habitat and for future generations.