Construction is underway on several Fulshear water projects aimed at keeping up with the demand of the city’s growing population.

Following last year’s drought, Fulshear city officials are working to ensure planned water projects move into the design and construction phases to alleviate any water concerns from residents, Fulshear Director of Public Works Sharon Valiante said.

“The drought from last year was a very severe drought—it started off as a minor [drought] and kept going up in the ranks, and by the time we got into the latter part of the summer, the entire state of Texas was in a severe drought,” she said.

Although experts don’t predict a dry season this summer, Fulshear officials are still prioritizing water projects through the fiscal year 2023-24 capital improvement plan to ensure the city stays ahead of the expected population growth over the coming years.

Two-minute impact

With a growing population, the city of Fulshear has millions of dollars in projects planned to meet the community’s water-based needs, Fulshear City Engineer Cliff Brouhard said.

The city’s population has grown from 6,203 residents in 2017 to 21,552 in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates. City officials estimate the current population to be 34,264 and expect it to grow to 70,800 by 2041, per the city’s website.

Fulshear staff members have two ongoing water plant projects totaling nearly $30 million to expand the system’s production capacity and address user growth, which include expanding Water Plant No. 1’s storage capacity and building the city’s second water plant in the Pecan Ridge area.

“Now, [we’ll have] a more exterior plant that will help push pressures together, ... and that’s going to be a big help,” Brouhard said, referring to Water Plant No. 2.

Although the projects won’t finish this summer, city staff will alleviate water pressure concerns by renting a hydropneumatic tank to hook into its fire hydrants monthly. This system will help increase pressures in the outskirts of the city, Brouhard said.

Why it matters

High temperatures and low rainfall last summer caused the city’s water demand to reach as high as 90% of the system’s capacity, Brouhard said. This caused water pressure issues in some parts of town, including in the Del Webb and Fulbrook on Fulshear Creek neighborhoods.

Additionally, he said the city had to bypass its air stripper, which removes the egg-like smell from water, to keep up with the high usage.

This summer, weather experts don’t expect a drought due to the above-average rainfall already received, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist and professor with Texas A&M University.

“Even if rainfall were only going to be 5 inches between now and mid-August, we’d still be at normal rainfall for the year at this point,” he said.

Despite a low likelihood of drought, city officials are revising Fulshear’s drought contingency plan in addition to increasing capacity with water projects. The drought plan will create stricter guidelines and fines for those who don’t limit water usage when the city needs to keep up with demand.

“The current plan doesn’t have a lot of teeth in it,” Valiante said. “The first stage, it’s strictly voluntary.”

City officials will bring the final plan before City Council again in June or July before the August deadline to adopt.

Looking ahead

Meanwhile, the city is working on its Water/Wastewater Master Plan, which is expected to be completed this fall and will outline its plans for the next five, 10 and 20 years with emphasis on projects the city will need to prioritize, Brouhard said.

Additionally, Brouhard said city staff members are hopeful the city will begin receiving groundwater from the $1.2 billion Surface Water Supply Project in 2026. The 55-mile pipeline constructed by local water authorities will bring surface water from Lake Houston to the western Greater Houston area, alleviating Fulshear and Katy’s reliance on groundwater.

Long-term, city officials also anticipate adding a secondary well for Water Plant No. 2 and constructing the city’s fourth water plant, both of which will expand the amount of water treated by the city daily, Brouhard said. Though a timeline for both has not yet been established.