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Excerpt from the September 19, 2019 Edition of the Hamilton Herald News:
David Lengefeld and Jim Summers gave a report from Upper Leon River Municipal Water District. Lengefeld told the council that the Upper Leon River Municipal Water District was established in 1961 with two members each from five cities – Hamilton, Gorman, DeLeon, Dublin, Comanche and Stephenville. There is very little turnover on the board, he said, and the board members represent 170 years of service and experience.
Lengefeld said prior to the 1990s, Hamilton was the only city to take untreated water down the Leon River from Upper Leon River Municipal Water District to a catch basin near the bridge on Highway 22. Water was piped from the river basin to Hamilton’s purification plant at City Lake and then to the city.
“Times of drought created major concerns for getting water down the Leon River,” he said. “At one time, the city had called for its entire allotment of water, and not one drop made it to our holding pond on the river.” After this, Hamilton built a pipeline from Lake Proctor for raw, untreated water, but later, with new Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards, Hamilton was forced to pipe treated water down the same pipeline from Upper Leon River Municipal Water District to the water plant in the city plus add additional water towers for storage. “That’s where we are today,” he said.
Through the years, Upper Leon River Municipal Water District has added a looped piping system to ensure water could be rerouted in case of a major catastrophic event and generators in case of blackout or brownout. The organization is rebuilding its water plant with a $13 million-plus membrane filtering reverse osmosis system to meet TCEQ requirements and maintains more than 100 miles of transmission water lines, more than 80 miles of distribution water lines and nine overhead water storage tanks holding 3.62 million gallons. “The entire water distribution system for the district is nearing 60 years of age, and it has continuing leaks and repairs just like all the cities that are served,” he said.
In 2002, because of a new drought of record, Brazos River Authority reduced the district’s water supply by 31.4 percent, Lengefeld said, and around 2013, with another drought at hand, the district purchased an abandoned pecan orchard with 19 serviceable wells. “Those wells can supply sufficient water to our member cities if needed with conservative measures in place,” he said. “That purchase was something over $1.7 million but gives us assurances that we never had before.”
In 2014, Lengefeld said, Brazos River Authority sent a letter to the district stating that Lake Proctor had only a little more than a year’s supply of water. “That made our purchase of the well water orchard land look ingenious,” he said. “Fortunately, that drought ended, and the district has not had to use the well system to supplement our water supply.”
Upper Leon River Municipal Water District, like Hamilton, also faced the issue of obsolete water meters, and most of those have been replaced, he said.
“Now for the really bad news,” Lengefeld told the council. “At present, we are in a bit of a dispute with the Brazos River Authority over system rates for raw water. “Now that most of the 50-year contracts have expired, Brazos River Authority insists upon increasing all contracts to the current system rate of $79 per acre foot.” Some contracts, he said, were as low as $8 per acre foot, and the average was around $20. “To automatically increase all of our contracts to $79 would mean a dramatic increase in the cost of water.
Brazos River Authority wants to give the district a two-year phase in period, and the district has asked for at least a 10-year phase in period.” To illustrate, Lengefeld said if the City of Hamilton uses approximately 1 million gallons per day and the average cost is $20 per acre foot, that is 3.07 acre feet per day or $61.40 per day raw water cost. That same usage times $79 would be $242.53 per day or $7275.90 raw water cost per month. “Raw water cost of course does not include water treatment, plant maintenance and operation or manpower,” he said. “This is not a pretty picture.”
Brazos River Authority is proposing increasing the rate by increments each year to $100 by 2027, $200 by 2040, $300 by 2060 and $400 by 2067. “The cost of water will continue to increase significantly,” Lengefeld said. “For example, for the first time ever, my water, sewer and garbage bill exceeded the electric bill in our home. I believe that trend will continue.”