Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pumps Restarted


The City of San Angelo restarted pumping the South Pool.  All three pumps were running this evening.  Each pump can move 25 acre feet per day, a total of 75 acre feet when all three are operating.  I expect the one above to suck air in the next day or two.


The other two won't be far behind, maybe a week with no runoff rains.


So much for the City maintaining a minimum level for wildlife.  The South Pool was down to 200 acre feet before a rare Westbound Low Pressure System gave us days of rain.  I expect the City to have drained the 500 acre feet increase in less than ten days. 

City Council won't meet until August 6, likely three days after all three pumps hit air. Their instruction to bring the topic back looks rather hollow.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Windsurfing Lake Spence?


The North and South Pools of Twin Buttes Reservoir took on minor runoff from last week's rains.  Until both pools rise windsurfing is a risky proposition.  Two South Pool fisherman suggested Lake Spence might be worth the trip.  They're from Robert Lee and commented how much water Spence took in last fall from our region's runoff rains.  They shared access is easy and the lake uncrowded.   Spence is pictured below before volume increased over ten times:


I researched Lake Spence water levels vs. our local reservoirs.  Spence holds over 30,000 acre feet of water.  That's nearly six times the volume and over four times the surface area of Twin Buttes.  I found an oddity.  Spence was constructed to supply water for San Angelo.

The reservoir is owned and operated by the Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD) for the purpose of supplying water to the District and the City of San Angelo.

In justifying the Hickory Aquifer pipeline construction Spence came up in July 2009. 

Mr. Wilde stated the Lake Spence water supply pipeline has experience problems and issues, primarily due to the materials used; therefore not a viable water source.

Right now the City of San Angelo has an unusable pipeline to Lake Spence.  I appreciate not reconstructing a pipeline to an empty lake.  However, San Angelo is spending $120.5 million on a stopgap water source in Hickory Aquifer.  Where will Spence water fall in San Angelo's hugely expensive water future?  Until the City refurbishes or rebuilds the Spence pipeline, I may have a windsurfing site.  Meanwhile, I'm praying for rain in the Twin Buttes watershed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

South Pool Not Restored

The City of San Angelo pumped Twin Buttes South Pool down to a mere 200 acre feet before the recent rains.  While a blessing (and more than a "medium rain" for our area) water levels rose by a foot.  That's far less than the 10-12 feet the city pumped from the South Pool since mid-April.

Note:  City Council never heard the requested 60 day report on pumping and missed their opportunity to specify a minimum lake level for the South Pool.  It's unclear when this topic will return to a City Council agenda.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

North Pool is On its Own



Silence returned to Twin Buttes South Pool when all three pumps stopped operating.  Each had found air.


The last time two pumps stopped the city extended the intake and refired the pumps.  I don't see how they can do that again given low water levels and the height of the pipe.

The Equalization Channel is in the process of drying up. 



Observers can see fish trying to find their way to deeper water, but there's little to be found.  That's highly symbolic of our area, where two houses in Big Lake burned down due to no water available in fire hydrants.

Barnhart wanted to buy water from San Angelo, which faces rapidly dwindling supplies.  Former City Councilman Paul Alexander stated a "medium rain" would quickly refill the South Pool.  I don't know of many medium rains that produce 4,000 acre feet of runoff water.  Let's hope Paul's prediction is soon fulfilled.


Pray that next week's projected runoff event occurs.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Will South Pool Last Until July 16?


In February San Angelo's City Council talked about providing a minimum water level at the South Pool.  The discussion was to occur 60 days after pumping was initiated.  That would've been mid June, only the topic didn't arise at the June 18th or July 2nd City Council meetings.  San Angelo's new Water Chief missed his opportunity to show his proactive stance.

Last weekend one pump went dry and another neared stopping.  The City extended the intake, apparently intent on draining the South Pool.  All three pumps were operating on July 6.

How much water will be left when City Council meets again?  At the current rate of South Concho River flow and no precipitation, I'd venture very little.   The picture below shows sunken trees being revealed.


It looks like a lake monster, but the real demon is out of sight.  Spring Creek stopped flowing altogether, in part due to water sales to oil companies by an upstream landowner.  Barnhart's public wells went dry last month.  What "smells like money" to some is a whole range of suffering for others.

Update:  A walk back in time revealed "Aug 29, 2012 - It should be noted that Twin Buttes' south pool won't be drained completely, so the fish in and wildlife around the pool can be maintained."

Friday, July 5, 2013

Reclaiming Reclaimed Water from Farmers

I found this Audio Script from 2011 while researching reclaimed water use, the focus of a City Request for Qualifications for Engineering Consultation.  The audio script is a short walk back in time, before two of the three people, Yantis Green and Will Wilde, resigned under ethical firestorms.  Even in this short piece there's an underlying story:

San Angelo’s wastewater is treated and delivered to an irrigation canal that pumps water onto 10,000 acres of farmland that span more than 80 farms.  With San Angelo’s lakes quickly evaporating in the historically hot, dry conditions, some city leaders are starting to view the use of wastewater exclusively for irrigation as a huge waste.

Cut 1: Alexander: We’re just doing this because it’s all we know what to do with our water. That’s the wrong attitude to take – “We don’t know what to do with it so let’s just give it to farmers.”


San Angelo City Councilman Paul Alexander is eyeing the millions of gallons of wastewater the city produces each day. He says the amount of water that flowed into the canal last year alone could sustain the city for six months.


Cut 2: I think we need to be more proactive than reactive and say “What can we do with this?” and we can save some of our water supply by using this effluent water on parks golf courses, things like that. That’s normal thinking for a city that’s trying to get more efficient with their water.


Of the 14 million gallons of water the city uses each day on average, about two-thirds, or 9 million of it, is flushed as wastewater.


Last year, the city delivered 2.8 billion gallons of treated wastewater to the 16-mile canal, which runs northeast from Lake Nasworthy to just past the small community of Veribest.


Constructed by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, the canal hasn’t always carried San Angelo’s wastewater. Until 1995, farmers received fresh water from Twin Buttes Reservoir until a dry spell, when the city struck a deal with the farmers.


Cut 3: Green: We traded the city of San Angelo fresh water for wastewater.  That’s Yantis Green, he’s the manager of the Tom Green County Water Control & Improvement District No. 1, which operates the canal. Under the original agreement between the district and the Bureau of Reclamation, the district is entitled to 25,000 acrefeet of Twin Buttes water every year.


Cut 4: Green: Next year, 2012, the city will generate about 9,000 acre-feet of wastewater and we by contract get 100 percent of that, in exchange for us leaving 9,000 acre feet of water in Twin Buttes.


But with Twin Buttes well under 50,000 acre-feet, farmers could find themselves without a water source.


Cut 5: Green: Without the effluent, we wouldn’t have water right now. Until the lake gets back above 50,000 acre-feet.


But according to San Angelo’s water manager Will Wilde, the city is nowhere near actively pursuing the use of wastewater for municipal use.


Cut 6: Wilde: First we’ve got to have our primary source—you’ve got to have a source to start with before you end up with wastewater. So we want to make sure on the primary side we have ample quantities to meet most of what those projected long-term needs are here. At a point in time, I’d say, probably within the next 5 to 10 years—I think you’ll see a lot more emphasis on treating the wastewater to water quality standards, bring it back into the system as a supplement to your primary source right there.


The City of San Angelo has just begun building a pipeline to the Hickory Aquifer in McCulloch County, 65 miles away. The project won’t be completed until early 2013, but officials hope it will supplement San Angelo’s water supply for years into the future.


Though Wilde says, he thinks modern San Angeloans would more open to drinking treated water than those of previous generations.


Cut 7: Wilde: I think there were a lot of those in the past – I think, as we have another generation of individuals coming up, I think it’s a lot more accepted and people realize that all water is wastewater, it just depending where it’s coming from.

Will Wilde, owner of one of the 80 farms receiving reclaimed wastewater, negotiated the deal providing 100% of reclaimed water to himself and the other 79 farms.  There is no conflict of interest filing by Will Wilde with the City of San Angelo in this regard.  San Angelo City officials said they were aware of Wilde's cotton "hobby farm" and deemed it not a conflict of interest.

Wilde resigned in the middle of a hornet's nest of concerns over outrageous and seemingly unexplainable water bills, purchasing $100,000 in furniture for the Water Department without required City Council approval and the employment of his son Blake as a Hickory Pipeline contractor after being fired by the city and designated ineligible for rehire.

Yantis Green admitted embezzling $63,000 from the Water District via 1,000 personal purchases on his employer's credit card.  Green is currently serving his one year sentence, after which he faces two years probation.  There's nothing small about outsized egos, one signature purchases and a San Angelo drought of ethics.  

Annual Trashing of Twin Buttes


The July 4th holiday weekend generates huge amounts of trash at Twin Buttes Reservoir.  The City maintained park on the North Shore of the North Pool gets the most fireworks trash, followed by the Equalization Channel.  The South Pool is currently locked and not available to the public due to pumping.  As the South Pool recedes other trash becomes apparent, glass bottles, trot lines with dozens of sharp fish hooks, a fire extinguisher and numerous trot line anchors.


I expect this year's trash to be the most in awhile, as prior years had burn and fireworks bans. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

City Going for Complete Drain of South Pool?


The City of San Angelo extended the intake pipes in order to draw more water from the South Pool.  City Council approved the pumping operation in February but the topic has not come up again. 

General discussion was held on the amount of water withdrawn from and transferred to the pool; starting the process earlier in June versus August; providing for a minimum water level in the south pool so not to drain completely; depending on all the variables, being more cognizant of the variables in order to better utilize the resources; the equalization channel releases, increasing the length of the pipeline, the mobilization and demobilization, and the related costs.
Motion, to direct staff to recommend a tentative start date but a date no later than June 15th; upon starting the transfer, present an update to City Council after 60 days; transfer the water as was conducted last year; and, with the understanding pumping will begin once the pools natural water flow ceases, was made by Councilmember Silvas and seconded by Councilmember Morrison.
 
Pumping started in mid April.  Sixty days would've been mid June.  It's closing in on 80 days and I've yet to see an update at City Council. 

The Bureau of Reclamation provided the following information on Twin Buttes lake levels as of May 31:







WATER SURFACE ELEVATION:


        MIDDLE CONCHO

1888.48ft
        SOUTH CONCHO

1919.2ft

This data is over a month old.  At that point the South Pool was down six feet from the level where water flows into the Equalization Channel.  It's easily down several additional feet from June's pumping.  Now would be the time for discussions on maintaining a minimum water level.  How much will be left when council meets again, barring any runoff?

The City's Twin Buttes Recreation Plan identified the area pictured below for a windsurfing launch.  I communicated with Texas Outdoors Consulting on how this would be a poor windsurfing launch, but nothing was changed before the city adopted the plan. 
 

Pumping the South Pool dry makes any launch location moot.