WilCo considers East Texas water sources

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To prepare for times of severe drought, Williamson County is exploring options for more water sources.

On Nov. 17, commissioners heard a presentation from the Lone Star Regional Water Authority, which asked the county for $50,000 to complete a water development study. The group would aim to find a water supply in East Texas and build a transportation and storage project plan, said Landy Warren, the president of the water authority.

As the county faces a growing population, he said the plan would prevent future water shortages by obtaining groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer in parts of Williamson and Bell counties, as well as the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Lee County. The groundwater would be transported to storage areas in Williamson County and local cities could then purchase the water, Warren said.

“We believe it would be very serious cost savings to the taxpayer, and it creates a more certain source of water in the future,” he told the commissioners.

Water consultant company Republic Water would conduct the study and then provide consulting for the project. Lone Star Water Authority would then manage the plan.

Williamson County cities currently pull water from the Brazos River Authority and the Lower Colorado River Authority. Warren said their plan would not replace the water sources that the cities and county currently use, but would give those entities another source for water.

“We are … looking at a plan that would create a balance—a third leg to the stool so that if we needed it, if the Brazos or the Colorado were not able to give us what we need, that we have a source [of water] close to us that could be brought in cost-effectively,” he said.

County commissioners had mixed reactions to the study. Commissioner Valerie Covey said she would be interested in moving forward but wanted to make sure the eastern counties would be involved with the study process.

“We can do studies all day, but if they don’t agree that there’s a million acre feet [of water]—if they think there’s 100,000 acre feet—then they’re afraid we’re going to take all their water,” she said. “And I understand that. If we had the water and they had the people, I’d be thinking the same thing.”

Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis said the county first needs to find out how much water they have and need.

“Do we need water? I think the answer is easy—yes,” he said. “We don’t know much water we’re going to need the next 20, 30, 40 years.”

Warren said the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer has 1 billion acres of water, or close to a 300-year supply. He said Republic Water would target where they could obtain water and transport it to Williamson County through existing right of ways.

“If we were able to come up with a regional plan where everybody could share, we believe there is the potential for millions of dollars per year in savings if [taxpayers] were to cooperatively buy water at a cost effective rate and ship it anywhere in the county that it needs to be,” he said.

The commissioners took no action on the $50,000 requested or the study, and Warren said they would next have to speak with water providers in Williamson County.