Controversial water supply contract voided

A controversial water project to pump millions of gallons of water a day from the Trinity Aquifer in Central Hays County will not move forward—at least in Buda, Mayor Todd Ruge said.

Ruge said Electro Purification’s nine-month feasibility period expired at the end of Oct. 20, and the company failed to prove up the quality and quantity of water it was intending to provide the city—1 million gallons a day from 2017-2023.

“They didn’t fulfill their end of the contract,” he said. “We are no longer a party to the EP project.”

Buda City Council approved a contract in January with EP, a Houston-based private water supply company. EP had proposed to pump 5.3 million gallons of water per day to provide to Buda, Goforth Special Utility District and a high-end subdivision near Kyle.

Private well owners in western Hays County cities, such as Driftwood and Wimberley, who draw on the aquifer for basic water needs, opposed the project because they believed it would draw down their water supply as well as their property values.

In June a piece of legislation by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) to bring the previously unregulated area of groundwater under Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District authority became law.

The Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency will provide the city of Buda's future permanent water source from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Caldwell County. However, water from that aquifer will not come online until 2023. Buda projected a need of an additional 1 million gallons of water a day beginning in 2017, but because the viability of the EP project had been up in the air the city began working with the HCPUA, GBRA and cities of San Marcos and Kyle to utilize those cities' extra water, Ruge said.

He said although the city is close to securing the 1 million gallons of water a day to shore up its supply in the interim, Buda is still in the market for water.

A water and wastewater subcommittee of the City Council is taking a look at about nine alternative water sources, including from governmental entities such as the Guadalupe-Blanco and Lower Colorado river authorities as well as private landowners, he said.

The city's water-sharing agreement with the cities of San Marcos and Kyle to purchase their excess surface water from the GBRA I-35 pipeline means Buda water customers will eventually absorb the cost of taking half a million gallons of water per day, respectively from each city, from 2017-2023.

Consultants are working to formulate a rate structure that city of Buda water customers will pay. Brian Lillibridge, a water specialist for the city, said at a Buda City Council meeting on Oct. 20 that could be finalized in November.

“We are very close to getting this done,” Ruge said. “But until everything is done it’s not done.”
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