McKinney is working to become more efficient in its water conservation efforts.

Next year, the city will have a new water source with the upcoming Bois D’Arc Lake in Fannin County, about 60 miles north of McKinney. The $1.6 billion Bois D’Arc Lake project will act as a reservoir for the North Texas Municipal Water District’s service area, which includes McKinney. NTMWD estimates the population in its service area will grow from 1.8 million people in 2021 to about 3.6 million people by the year 2065.

NTMWD officials said the new lake is estimated to provide water through 2040, but the city of McKinney hopes to extend that through better conservation methods.

The average residence in McKinney uses nearly 9,000 gallons a month, city officials said.

If residents conserve water, that can be directly reflected in water bills not only in the short-term but also in the long range, City Manager Paul Grimes said.

He explained that high-water usage among households means the city and the region would need another source of water “that much sooner.”

“The primary motivation for folks [to conserve] ought to be, ‘I don’t want to see my water bill go higher,’” Grimes said. “The second reason is that it preserves our existing water resources. ... We shouldn’t be wasting water; we can find ways to use water more efficiently.”

Continued conservation

The water district estimates that McKinney will use almost 12 billion gallons of water in 2022.

In August, the McKinney City Council approved an $11.3 million agreement that will provide every resident in the city with automated water meters. This will allow McKinney residents to check their water usage in real-time rather than waiting until their next bill. They can also get notifications for potential leaks, Grimes said.

About 1,000 of these automated meters have already been installed, but 3,000 are expected to come online by the end of December, city staff said.

Additional conservation and usage awareness can only do so much, Grimes said. Ultimately, projects from the water district, such as Bois D’Arc Lake, will be how water is supplied to the growing population, he said.

The water district acts as a water wholesaler and sets rates to cover its expenses for the district’s partner municipalities. These expenses include projects such as the new lake. From there, cities set their own rates that they charge businesses and residents, said Billy George, the district’s deputy director of water and wastewater.

The district’s rates will stay flat at $2.99 per 1,000 gallons for members through 2022. However, rates are projected to rise by 22 cents per 1,000 gallons in 2023, per the district’s website.

The city’s water rate will remain unchanged this fiscal year and the following year despite the changes at the district level, according to McKinney’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Holloway.

“The city’s water rates will cover our portion with the rates as they currently are,” Holloway said.

The rates from the district are part of an amended wholesale services contract approved in 2020 by all 13 of its member cities. The agreement will allow cost-sharing to be phased in for the district’s member cities over the next 13 years, officials said.

Revenue generated by the water rates helps fund the Bois D’Arc Lake project, George said. As no tax revenues were used to construct the reservoir, the Texas Water Development Board approved over $1.47 billion in low-interest funding for the lake from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas. This will result in more than $240 million in interest savings over the life of the project, George said.

Bois D’Arc Lake is a key project that will help meet the region’s water needs through 2040, George said. The district is “always planning” for new water supplies and is mindful that the region goes into periods of drought as well, George said. When droughts happen, it’s up to the cities and their residents to help conserve resources to get through those periods, he said.

“We are preparing for and prepared for the continued growth, providing for homes and businesses and people,” he said. “These kinds of utilities, water being one of the most important, becomes an underlying driver for economic prosperity.”

Adding a new reservoir

Located northeast of Bonham in Fannin County, the 16,641-acre Bois D’Arc Lake is the first new major reservoir built in the state in nearly 30 years, according to the district’s website.

Construction for the new lake began in 2018, but planning goes back to the 1980s, George said. The district was able to start impounding water for the lake this year and building its dam.

Remaining work on the lake will continue into 2023, George said.

“We are all excited that Bois D’Arc Lake is filling with water and the opening of the lake is in sight, but we need to be patient,” NTMWD Lake Operations Manager Jennifer Stanley said in a statement. “Much work remains to be completed before it is safe to open.”

The NTMWD currently draws its water from Lavon Lake to serve its northern member cities. However, McKinney has a new, recently completed pump station. When Bois D’Arc Lake is finished, a 90-inch diameter pipeline will run the water from the lake to the new McKinney pump station, where it will be treated. From there, the treated water will be distributed to the northern part of the water district’s service area, which includes McKinney, George said.

“That will then free up capacity from some of our other water supplies ... so more of that water can serve the eastern and southern portions of the region,” George said.

The lake effect

Construction is also underway on Lake Ralph Hall, which will be located on the North Sulphur River in southeast Fannin County. That reservoir will become the water source for the Upper Trinity Regional Water District that serves mainly Denton County communities.

In addition to providing water, both lakes are expected to be recreation and sightseeing attractions, officials said.

“These are just going to be tremendous assets,” Fannin County Judge Randy Moore said. “We’re going to be the recreation county for all of North Texas.”

As part of the lake project, NTMWD has spent more than $50 million to construct and improve 11 miles of roads and bridges in Fannin County, per the district’s website.

Moore said he expects the benefits to be from visitors and recreation at the lake.

“Bois D’Arc is a promise,” Moore said. “The promise is all the development [that] will come [from] people coming in.”

Editor's note: The original post has been edited to correct an error. The Bois D'Arc project will help meet the region's needs through 2040.