Water woes a common theme among Central Texas communities

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Water woes a common theme among Central Texas communities By MICHELLE HILLEN/Tribune-Herald staff writer

This year's hot, dry summer is taking its toll on water systems throughout Central Texas, causing water rationing, low-water pressure and mandatory water boils to become almost standard fare.

Communities throughout McLennan, Limestone, Hill and Coryell counties have been plagued by water woes ranging from broken pipes to broken pumps and too little shortage space at treatment plants to keep up with increased summer demands.

Although the problems are varied, they all have a similar root increased water usage in the summer puts stress on systems that are already dealing with aging infrastructure, growing population and drying wells.

"In summer, the demands for water are highest. People are watering their yards, and outdoor uses of water tend to be higher," said Mike Bukala, spokesman for the Brazos River Authority, which develops and manages water resources throughout the Brazos River basin. "Infrastructure will function better at less than pedal to the metal, and when you put the system to the test ... that is when you are going to have more failures."

Examples of such failures are widespread:

* Last week, members of the 500 population community of Evant in Coryell County were asked to begin conserving water, because one of the city's two main water wells was not producing as much as it should.

* Two weeks ago, the city of Groesbeck in Limestone County began water rationing because consumption was so high that the city's treatment plant could not produce water fast enough.

* Three weeks ago, the city of Carl's Corner in Hill County was under a water boil notice after lighting struck a power line and the incident damaged a well pump, limiting its output.

* In mid-July, a series of eight ruptured waterlines in a six-day period put the city of Lorena on a water boil notice.

* Earlier in July, the city of Waco was forced to take over two water systems just outside the city limits. Those systems were facing pressure from state regulators to make expensive upgrades to help compensate for growth in the area.

Even the city of Waco has faced more water main breaks than usual due to the dry weather conditions this summer, said city utilities director Ricky Garrett. But because Waco's system is so large, those breaks are usually confined and don't affect large populations.

Ron Byrd, an environmental investigator with the Waco office of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, which regulates water systems, said this summer hasn't been as bad as some. But the heavy clay content in the soil around the area makes water main breaks a problem every summer.

"It's just the environmental conditions of the soil," Byrd said. "Where you have clay soils, clay shrinks and can pull a pipe apart. Also, as the ground shrinks and swells, the pipes move with it, and rocks can rub up against the pipe, rupturing it."

It can happen to the best water systems, but more than likely, water problems will strike systems that are using old pipes, or trying to serve more people than the system is designed to handle, Bukala said.

The good news, he said, is that many towns are actively working to expand and update their water systems.

In Evant, city officials are looking at digging a new well and replacing old water lines to help solve their problems, said Lorene Tomblin, Evant city secretary.

In Groesbeck, city officials are considering expanding their water treatment plant to meet new growth in the area, said Keith Tilley, director of public works for Groesbeck.

In Hill County, volunteers will help install 53,000 feet of water pipeline near Woodbury and Blanton as part of a $350,000 state grant. The improvements will increase the size of water pipes in that area, helping to solve the chronic low water pressure problem experienced throughout the area, officials said.

In the Bosque County city of Meridian, where the well's water supply is drying up, the city leaders and members of the Brazos River Authority signed a planning agreement for a new $6 million surface-water supply system in June. The proposed project, which would include the construction of a raw water intake on the North Bosque River, a pump station, pipeline and water treatment plant, will ensure that the Bosque County area has an adequate water supply to handle growth in the area.

But regardless of all of the improvements, there will always be some degree of problems with water pipelines, particularly in the summer, Bukala said.

"These problems are not going to go away," he said. "There will always be some of it because there will always be infrastructure that needs to be expanded or updated."

Michelle Hillen can be reached at mhillen@wacotrib.com or 757-5735.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 06, 2001


Ok, so I'm going to sound like an old fart.

When I was a kid, there were springs all over central Texas. Many of them flowed at thousands of gallons per minute. They seem to have all dried up now. At Landa Park in New Braunfels. At Cameron Park in Waco. Etc.

I wonder if the population pressures could have been a bit less back then (1950's)?


-- joj (jump@off.c), November 06, 2001.

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