The fourth and final piece of a $213 million water development project was approved in July when the city of Buda committed to paying $10.86 million over the next 20 years as part of a joint effort with the cities of San Marcos and Kyle as well as the Canyon Regional Water Authority.
The project, which has been in the works since 2007, would supply the Alliance Regional Water Authority—formerly the Hays-Caldwell Public Utility Agency—with up to 27 million gallons of water per day to high-growth areas along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio. The water authority has groundwater permits to pump the water from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Caldwell County.
“We’re able to secure a long-term water supply,” Buda Assistant City Manager Micah Grau said. “We were looking at a shortage, so as a growing city we’re having to go out and find additional water supplies and doing so is an expensive prospect. Having a partnership like Alliance where we’re able to share water with the other community partners really helps.”
After years of discussion and preparation, the Alliance project is weeks away from beginning construction on the project’s first phase, a pipeline connecting the cities of Buda and Kyle.
The water authority expects to begin delivering Carrizo-Wilcox water to the I-35 corridor by 2023. Design and easement acquisition for the pipeline to transmit the water will begin in 2018, Moore said.
The pipeline connecting Buda and Kyle will roughly follow FM 2770 from just north of the Austin Community College Hays campus to a pump station near Flint Hills Resources, a fuel-production company, in Buda, Alliance General Manager Graham Moore said.
Construction on the pipeline is expected to begin this fall, with work on the pump station beginning before the end of the year, Moore said.
The pipeline between the two cities, known as Phase 1A, is aimed at helping Buda stem an anticipated water shortage, Moore said. In 2015 the city was involved in a contentious battle for groundwater in western Hays County after a private company from Houston was found to be planning to pump water from an unregulated portion of the Trinity Aquifer. The city of Buda was one of the company’s first customers, but when the project fell through, the city was left without a water source to meet demand that was anticipated to exceed supply by 2017. The cities of Kyle and San Marcos agreed to share their excess water with Buda to bridge the gap until the long-term Carrizo-Wilcox water becomes available in 2023.
Buda spokesperson David Marino said that collaboration is one of the points that makes the Alliance project unique.
“This is kind of a unique partnership because when you think of the water wars you see in other towns and cities, we’re actually joining together,” Marino said. “It’s a great thing that we’re joining together and working together at a time when water is such a precious commodity.”
The city has been able to extend its anticipated water shortfall to 2019 because of a combination of conservation efforts, construction of a new water well on the west side of the city and planned usage of a pipeline owned by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority that connects San Marcos, Kyle and Buda.
In 2018, Moore said Alliance will begin detailed design and right of way acquisition for the larger pipeline that will transmit water 95 miles from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Caldwell County to the I-35 corridor.
“We will anticipate the right of way acquisition will be our critical timeline issue,” Moore said. “We’ll need to get started on that in 2018 so we can deliver water in 2023.”
An additional piece of the project could provide 20,000 acre-feet of water more decades down the line. That water has not been permitted yet, and whether Alliance pursues the additional water will depend largely on how San Marcos, Kyle, Buda and the New Braunfels area grow during the next few decades, Moore said.
The project took a step forward July 20 after the Texas Water Development Board approved a commitment to provide $213 million for the project through the State Water Implementation Fund of Texas, or SWIFT.
“This is the kind of stuff SWIFT was built to incentivize and encourage,” TWDB member Peter Lake said.
The SWIFT loans will be repaid through the water rates of the Alliance members, including the cities of San Marcos, Kyle and Buda as well as the Canyon Regional Water Authority.
The city of Buda agreed to pay $10.86 million of the total project cost, or 5.08 percent. The city of Kyle will pay $60.12 million, or 28.17 percent, and San Marcos is paying $76.52 million or 35.86 percent. The Canyon Regional Water Authority, which supplies water to portions of Central and South Texas including San Antonio, New Braunfels and Comal County, will pay $65.92 million, or 30.89 percent.
What’s in a name?
During the 85th legislative session earlier this year, a bill was approved and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott rechristening the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency as the Alliance Regional Water Authority. The change from a utility agency to a water authority clarifies the organization’s powers and abilities on issues related to eminent domain and bond issuance, Moore said.
The change to a water authority also opens the possibility that Alliance could partner with the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, which is also in the process of developing a project to transmit water from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer to the I-35
The potential to partner with the GBRA could provide “a lot” of cost-savings to the all parties involved in the project, Moore said.
GBRA Communications Director LaMarriol Smith said the two organizations are discussing ways to partner on common production, treatment and transmission facilities for the two projects.
Those talks will likely continue through the end of the year, Moore said.