Over the past decade the customer base of Travis County Water Control & Improvement District No. 17 has grown 44 percent, General Manager Debbie Gernes said.

Located in western Travis County and encompassing the Lakeway, Steiner Ranch and Hudson Bend neighborhoods, the district’s population makeup has changed from a weekend recreational community to a more permanent residential region, incorporating huge growth in the district's commercial accounts, she said.

District challenges

Created in 1959 and funded through customer taxes and fees, the district is a nonprofit public utility that provides clean water while complying with the ever-expanding array of water-quality standards, Gernes said.

A five-member board of directors oversees the district, and members are elected to four-year terms.

Following 20 years with WCID 17, Gernes announced her plans to retire from the district this May. Following 20 years with WCID 17, Gernesannounced her plans to retire from the district this May.[/caption]

“The unique challenge of this area is responding to the explosive growth and keeping up with the required new infrastructure while replacing and repairing old infrastructure,” Gernes said. “All of these things need to be done while keeping taxes and rates as low as possible.

“A huge challenge in this area, of course, is providing wastewater service to everyone who wants it.”

Much of the district runs along Lake Travis, a natural feature that attracts many people to the area and also creates challenges to providing water, she said. However, no water—not even highly treated wastewater, or effluent—may be put back into the lake, she said. As a result of this restriction, land for irrigation must be located and purchased for effluent disposal, which makes wastewater service very expensive, she said.

“Everything in the water business is a balancing act,” Gernes said.
Looking forward

To continue this balance and meet demands, she said plenty of new initiatives are in the works.

“District 17 is constantly upgrading water and wastewater facilities and adding new mains, tanks and pumping stations,” Gernes said.

This year, water line improvements are scheduled for the areas around Cedar, Hughes and Lyndon streets; Sunbird, Pheasant and Heron streets in Cardinal Hills; and McCormick Mountain Drive, she said.

Major facilities construction projects include the Flintrock Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion and upgrades to the Eck Lane Water Treatment Plant backwash facilities, Gernes said. Projects in the planning stage include an effluent storage tank and drip-irrigation facilities behind the Baylor Scott & White Health hospital, and an irrigation pump station and storage tank to be built in the Serene Hills area, she said.

“A major initiative for the next five years will be the installation of automated metering infrastructure, which will install [technology-driven] smart meters throughout the district and allow customers to instantly see their water usage,” Gernes said.