Cinco MUD No. 1 rolls out plan to reduce water waste, save money Purple is the designated color indicating reclaimed water. Cinco MUD No. 1’s reclaimed water will be used to irrigate medians and fill golf course lakes.[/caption]

To reduce the cost of water as well as conserve it, a Cinco Ranch municipal utility district will soon be irrigating medians and filling local golf courses with reclaimed water. The plan will shift the community away from using potable drinking water for those purposes.

For the past year, engineers with Cinco MUD No. 1—a master MUD that owns and operates a water treatment plant for  11 MUDS and provides wholesale service to the individual districts—has been working on a large project.

Workers with the Cinco MUD No. 1 have laid 60,000 linear feet of reclaimed pipelines and changed sprinkler heads to the color purple, indicating the water is not potable.

The overall project is a water reuse system that provides safe, treated wastewater that meets standards set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to homeowner associations in the Cinco MUD No. 1 district. The system is expected to begin distributing water to its first customer in the next 30 to 45 days.

“All of this is designed to reduce the amount of water that we are taking out of our aquifer to conserve that water for potable uses, and for irrigation we want to use to the greatest extent possible, the effluent [water],” said Steve Robinson, with the law firm Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP, which provides legal counsel for Cinco MUD No. 1.

The project will serve several purposes, including saving water and money and helping with legislative mandates to reduce groundwater pumping to prevent subsidence, Robinson said.

Cinco MUD No. 1 rolls out plan to reduce water waste, save money

Saving money

Irrigating Cinco MUD No. 1’s medians with reclaimed water is estimated to save $1.5 million a year, said Larry Mueller, senior project manager with Brown & Gay Engineers, Cinco MUD No. 1’s engineering firm.

The savings in a result of using reclaimed water which will reduce a groundwater reduction pumpage fee the MUD pays to the North Fort Bend Water Authority. Mueller said the MUD has spent $9.5 million on the project overall, the cost of which includes building ground storage tanks, pump stations and distribution lines.

“Once the system’s up and running, it’s just [operation and maintenance] cost on a yearly basis,” Mueller said. “Very little [is] involved other than keeping the pumps and motors going.”

Cinco MUD No. 1, which provides service to about 32,000 residents, is managed by the water authority, an entity created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 to comply with mandates from the Fort Bend Subsidence District, another entity created in 1989 and tasked to reduce groundwater pumping in an effort to prevent subsidence.

Cinco MUD No. 1 rolls out plan to reduce water waste, save moneyAs a result of the mandate, the NFBWA must reduce groundwater pumping by 60 percent by 2025. A 30 percent reduction was mandated by 2013.

The Cinco MUD’s fee as a part of the groundwater reduction plan in 2011 was $1.20 per 1,000 gallons of water. This year, it is $2.75 per thousand gallons.  Those figures do not include the price of production at Cinco MUD No. 1’s water plant.

“Water will continue to get far more expensive,” Robinson said.

Robinson said Cinco MUD No. 1 was able to do the project because of a $0.75 per thousand gallons of water credit by the NFBWA, which is used to encourage water reuse projects.

The West Harris County Regional Water Authority also has a credit for reuse projects in its jurisdiction of 50 percent of a MUD district’s groundwater pumpage fee, said WHCRWA Engineer Wayne Ahrens, who works for Dannebaum Engineering Corp.

Ahrens said there were a number of water reuse projects going on in the West Authority’s boundaries, primarily with Cypress-area golf courses, as those projects are becoming more common.

“Clearly, cost is a part of it and some entities are starting to get a better understanding of the value of water,” he said, adding that the understanding includes possibilities of a shortage.

Saving water Cinco MUD No. 1 rolls out plan to reduce water waste, save money

In 2015, Cinco MUD No. 1 used 2.1 billion gallons of water, and 800 million of those gallons were for irrigation.

“[This] 800 million, all comes from potable water, from the groundwater,” Robinson said.

From the Cinco Central Wastewater Treatment Plant, Cinco MUD No. 1 pushes out 2.3 million gallons of water a day that goes down a drainage ditch, Robinson said.

“[On a] typical day in September, I will probably use most all of that to irrigate my HOA medians,” Mueller said.

In low-use irrigation seasons, the reclaimed water will be used to top off golf course lakes. The MUD estimates the reuse system will provide 445 million gallons of water per year.

The MUD has been working on conservation efforts for several years, reducing its irrigation usage by 300 million gallons since 2010.

“In 2010, we used more water for irrigation than we did for our domestic water use,” Robinson said. “We’ve changed that since then with conservation measures, which is great news.”

Mueller said irrigation figures are especially high during the summer.

“It’s pushing 60 percent of the water on our hottest summer months that [is] being used for irrigation,” he said.

Mueller and Robinson said a project like Cinco MUD No. 1’s is not new, but it is for the Greater Houston area.

“This is what I would say is innovative in Houston, but we’re catching up with the rest of the country,” Robinson said.

The MUD is looking at future projects to reduce groundwater pumping, including a plan to build a brackish desalination plant that is set to be operational late next year, Mueller said.

Cinco also has a second plant called Cinco South Wastewater Treatment Plant that could also have a reuse system.

“With all these combined we think we’ve got a good shot of managing your water needs moving forward,” Mueller said.