BRA to help meet growing Williamson County's need for more water
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As Williamson County grows, so does the need for water and the Brazos River Authority has several large projects underway to help meet that demand.
The BRA is preparing for an expansion of its East Williamson County Regional Water System (EWCRWS).
This series of projects, expected to be completed in 2027, will ensure the booming population in this area has the water they need when they turn on the faucet.
"This project was always going to have to happen, but I think the incredible growth that's happened over the last three-to-five years has really expedited the schedule," said Mandy Cullar, BRA regional business & project development manager for the Central and Lower Basin. "The explosive growth that's happening in Williamson County was really a driving force."
It's not just parts of the area seeing the influx in population, Cullar said. The city of Taylor is booming, Jonah and Hutto are seeing a rise, and Jarrell and Georgetown continue to grow. The EWCRWS provides treated water to the city of Taylor, the Jonah Water Special Utility District, and the Lone Star Regional Water Authority. These entities provide water to customers in eastern Williamson County and a small portion of southern Bell County.
"This is an important project," she said. "One that will bring water to a lot of people."
The EWCRWS has several components: An intake structure on Lake Granger pumps raw water 3.6 miles by pipeline to the water treatment plant. Treated water is then pumped 3.7 miles to customer access points in Circleville.
"The initial phase, which we're in the process of finishing up right now, has to do with evaluating the entire system and having the engineer recommend to us where improvements need to be made to expand the system as a whole," Cullar said. "Out of this evaluation phase, they've given us several recommendations for the short-term, things that need to be done in the next five years, as well as long-term expansion solutions. Our engineers are looking at demands out to 2070, but things can change a lot with population growth during that time."
Currently, three separate engineering design contracts are being finalized for the short-term expansion needs : a new treated water pipeline, improvements necessary to blend Trinity Aquifer groundwater from an existing well with treated surface water, and a 10 million gallon per day treatment plant expansion.
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Part of the short-term expansion plans include construction of infrastructure needed to begin supplying treated water from the Trinity Aquifer groundwater well.
The existing groundwater well has the capacity to produce up to 4 million gallons per day of water to augment the surface water supply available from Granger Lake, Cullar said. The project must first be approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and then, the BRA can blend the groundwater with the surface water.
Integration of this new water source is needed to provide additional treated water to the area during times of peak demand.
In conjunction with the groundwater project, additional pipeline capacity will be needed to move the treated water to its destination.
The BRA currently has one treated water pipeline that has been in use since 1990. The 3.7-mile, 27-inch diameter pipeline has a maximum capacity of about 15 million gallons per day.
The pipeline is nearing capacity and is currently the only dedicated means of delivering treated water. If the line were to break or fail, thousands of households could temporarily be without water.
So, part of the EWCRWS expansion includes building a second pipeline. This second pipeline will be 48 inches in diameter with a maximum capacity of 35 million gallons per day. The additional line will expand the treated water delivery capacity of the pipelines to about 50 million gallons per day, while the final long-term system build-out capacity will be 42.8 million gallons per day.
Upon completion of the new 48" line, the existing 27" line will become a dedicated line to supply the city of Taylor, while Jonah Water SUD and Lone Star RWA will utilize the new 48" pipeline. Interconnections between the lines will be included to provide redundancy for all customers.
"This way, if something happens to one pipeline, they can use the other until the second one is fixed," Cullar said.
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Another step of this project includes the actual surface water plant expansion.
In 2004, the BRA purchased the water treatment plant from the city of Taylor, beginning a $17.4 million expansion of the plant and what would become the EWCRWS. In 2009, the EWCRWS was expanded from 5.3 million gallons per day to about 13 million gallons per day to meet the area's growing needs.
The near-term expansion will add two clarifiers and four filters to the plant allowing the maximum amount of water that can be treated to increase another 10 million gallons per day. The move will almost double the existing infrastructure at the plant, Cullar said.
All three projects are in contract development for the final design phases, with construction bids expected to begin in the fall of 2024.
Simultaneously, another move is underway to maximize the existing plant output without construction.
The BRA is evaluating re-rating the existing clarifiers and filters at the plant. Currently, they are rated to treat 13 million gallons per day. The BRA is working to show that the existing plant can produce 13.75 million gallons per day in a plan that will be presented to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for review and approval.
"It's a way to get a little more bang for your buck, but at a minimum cost in terms of time and money," she said.
The series of expansion projects is expected to be completed in 2027 and will bring the EWCRWS treated water delivery capability to about 27.8 million gallons per day.
And this is just the short-term plan.
The BRA is already considering longer-term expansion plans to meet the area's growing needs and eventually build out the system to handle 43 million gallons per day. But that won't take place until at least 2030, unless demand dictates sooner.
And the way Texas' population continues to boom, time will only tell.