In testimony before the House Committee on County Affairs, Alan J. Rendl, President of the North Harris County Regional Water Authority (NHCRWA), urged the Legislature to support the appropriation of general revenue to back the Texas Water Development Board’s State Participation Program to help fund the Luce Bayou Project, a critical water supply undertaking for the region.
“In order to fulfill the Authority’s mission to convert hundreds of water districts from reliance on groundwater to surface water, we are collaborating with other water entities in our region to construct the Luce Bayou Project. The project will eventually bring some 400 million gallons per day from the Trinity River into the City of Houston’s Northeast Water Purifications Plant at Lake Houston, where it will be treated and delivered across the region,” Rendl explained. “Driving this project is the exceptional population growth experienced in our area. In 2000, when the Authority was created, 397,000 people lived within the Authority’s boundaries. Today, that number has reached about 601,000…and by 2030, that number is expected to grow to 814,000 people!”
Extreme population growth drives extreme demand, Rendl said. Water consumption — within just the NHCRWA’s boundaries — is projected to grow from 69 million gallons per day (MGD) in 2000 to 130 MGD in 2030. Even with aggressive water conservation measures, many 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. This makes Luce Bayou a critical element of the State Water Plan for the multi-county region.
“The NHCRWA does not have Ad Valorem taxing power,” Rendl said. “The Authority’s operation and construction projects are paid for exclusively by pumpage fees applied to wells within the NHCRWA, surface water sales and the revenue bonds supported by those sources. And, as we have emphasized from the beginning,” he added, “the price of water will continue to increase.”
The financing programs available through the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) have helped with engineering and environmental studies, right of way acquisition, and other preparation for construction. Looking forward, the NHCRWA and partners* in the Luce Bayou Project will be asking the Legislature to again appropriate general revenue to support the Board’s State Participation Program.
“The funds will pay the deferred interest on the loans that will make the construction of Luce Bayou possible,” Rendl pointed out, “making it possible to provide water for people and industries in Harris, Galveston and Fort Bend Counties, and make Lake Conroe’s water available to Montgomery County, rather than being used by the City of Houston.”
“If Luce Bayou is NOT completed on time,” Rendl warned, “there’ll be ripple effects across the multi-county area, impacting economic growth, the future conversion to surface water, and the continued future use of Lake Conroe water during periods of drought for City of Houston customers.The strong Texas economy, good job opportunities, and everything this state has to offer will continue to attract new residents. As long as this population growth occurs, we have to be able to ensure a reliable, long-term water supply to sustain this expansion. Luce Bayou is a vital component for that to occur.”
The North Harris County Regional Water Authority was created by the Texas Legislature in 1999 and ratified by the voters in January, 2000, to respond to the problem of subsidence caused by overpumping of groundwater in the Harris and Galveston County areas. Partners* in the Luce Bayou Project include NHCRWA, the City of Houston, West Harris County Regional Water Authority, the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority, the North Fort Bend Water Authority and the Coastal Water Authority.