Water Authority Expresses Support For Legislative Plan

Water Authority Expresses Support For Comprehensive Legislative Plan to Fund Water Infrastructure Projects.

The North Harris County Regional Water Authority’s (NHCRWA) Board of Directors unanimously adopted a Resolution in support of legislative measures authorizing the use of the State’s Economic Stabilization Fund as an appropriate source to fund reliable and sustainable water infrastructure projects designated in the State Water Plan. The NHCRWA board supports the one-time $2 billion dedication of money already deposited in the State’s Economic Stabilization Fund as a virtually permanent source of funding for water infrastructure already authorized by Texas voters. The board emphasized that the long-term stability and growth of the Texas economy depend on the provision of ample water for household, commercial, industrial and agricultural use, and point out that state funding can reduce the total cost of financing regional and local projects while the state funds are repaid and become available for use by others.

Jimmie Schindewolf

Jimmie Schindewolf

“We congratulate Representative Allan Ritter and Senator Troy Fraser for their dedication to meeting the State’s crucial water requirements, and applaud their commitment to obtaining the funding to do so,” said Jimmie Schindewolf, P.E., the Authority’s General Manager.

“Of critical importance to the NHCRWA,” Schindewolf continued, “is the Luce Bayou Project being developed by the City of Houston, the Coastal Water Authority (CWA) and several regional water authorities, including the North Authority. In compliance with the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District’s mandates to convert hundreds of water districts from reliance on groundwater to surface water, this collaboration makes economic sense.  The project will eventually bring some 400 million gallons per day from the Trinity River into the City of Houston’s Northeast Water Purification Plant at Lake Houston, where it will be treated and delivered across the region. Driving this project is the exceptional population explosion our area has experienced for the last decade.”

“When the NHCRWA was created in 2000,” Schindewolf explained, “the area within our boundaries was home to approximately 418,800 residents who used about 70 million gallons of water each day. Ten years later, the area’s population exceeded projections by approximately 113,000 people, and reached 601,000!  Water consumption reported for 2011 — the latest year for which figures are available — was approximately 38 billion gallons! That’s a staggering increase in just one decade!”

Even with aggressive water conservation measures, a number of the groundwater wells in the area have reached the end of their useful lives, aquifers are being depleted, and the area is already experiencing both water quality and water quantity issues. The Luce Bayou Project is a critical element of the State Water Plan for the multi-county region.

“The local water authorities do not have Ad Valorem taxing power,” Schindewolf said, “so construction projects are paid for by pumpage fees applied to wells within their boundaries, surface water sales and the revenue bonds supported by those sources. This makes the financing programs available through the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) so essential to help with engineering and environmental studies, right of way acquisition, and other preparation for construction. The TWDB has provided partial funding for the Luce Bayou Project in the form of loans to CWA totaling approximately $62.5 million, and the Luce Bayou “partners” intend to seek additional state funds to help pay for the total cost of the project currently estimated to be $351.4 million. If Luce Bayou is NOT completed on time, there will be ripple effects across the multi-county area, impacting economic growth and the future conversion to surface water, which makes adopting these legislative funding initiatives for water projects even more critical.”

The North Harris County Regional Water Authority (NHCRWA) was created by House Bill 2965 in the 76th Texas Legislature and was confirmed by a public vote in January 2000. The NHCRWA boundaries include approximately 160 political subdivisions (cities and, Municipal Utility Districts, Public Utility Districts, Water Control and Improvement Districts, Utility Districts – the districts collectively referred to as utility districts) as well as independent well owners that collectively have a total of more than 1,600 groundwater wells. Following the 2000 election, the NHCRWA became the single entity empowered to develop and implement a strategy within the NHCRWA for complying with the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District’s Regulatory Plan. This was necessary, for with the exception of some local “interconnect” agreements, these 160 entities are independent — not linked together — making it virtually impossible for them to make the conversion to surface water on their own.  In that regard the primary mission of the NHCRWA was to secure adequate surface water and develop a system to facilitate the transition to surface water in compliance with the mandated timeframe.