During a North Houston Association Environment & Water Committee meeting Feb. 4, Kaleyatodi provided an update on the $1.4 billion project, which he said is necessary to get the region into compliance with groundwater subsidence regulations coming down the pipeline. According to Kaleyatodi, while the region is currently withdrawing 70% of its water from the ground, by 2025, only 40% of the region's water can come from the ground, and by 2035, that portion will drop to 20%. Instead, the remaining 60% of water in 2025 and 80% of water in 2035, will need to come from surface water, such as lakes and rivers, he said.
"When we withdraw water from the ground, the ground subsides [and] when the ground subsides, there's an increased potential for flooding, and it also impacts infrastructure," Kaleyatodi said. "So that's why the regulations are in place, and to comply with the regulations, we are expanding the water plant."
Currently, the water plant is capable of treating 80 million gallons of water per day; the two-phase expansion project will increase that capacity to 400 million gallons per day. Phase 1, on which construction began in July 2019, will add a capacity of 80 million gallons per day by January 2023, while Phase 2 will add the remaining 240 million gallons per day by July 2025. The entire project is slated to be finalized by September 2025 and is a joint venture by the city of Houston and the north, central and west Harris County regional water authorities, Kaleyatodi said.
"So far the project is about 40% complete, and we are tracking well as far as the schedule even with the COVID-19 [pandemic]—we are doing well as far as the schedule is concerned," he said.
The expansion project is just one of four regional water projects underway to help get the region to the 20% groundwater goal. A 17-mile water transmission line is also under construction to carry water from the expanded water purification plant in Lake Houston to the city of Houston and the north and central Harris County regional water authorities. Similarly, a 37-mile water transmission will be constructed to carry water from the expanded plant to the West Harris County Regional Water Authority.
Also underway is the $380 million Luce Bayou Project, which will transport water from the Trinity River in Liberty County to Lake Houston, Kaleyatodi said.
"These four projects together will help us meet the regulatory requirements, and all are slated to be completed by 2025," he said.
A total of 624 firms are working on the Northeast Water Purification Plant expansion project, which Kaleyatodi said is the largest Houston Public Works project to date.
"Over 1,000 jobs have been created as of today, and when the project is complete and when the operations begin, we'll have about 60-70 permanent jobs to run the facilities," he said.
Kaleyatodi said the expanded water purification plant should last an estimated 70-80 years with proper maintenance. He added the plant should not need any additional capacity until at least 2035, depending on the region's population growth.
"We will definitely have good water for generations to come," he said.