Monday, January 27, 2014

Paul Alexander's Latest Tune on Pumping South Pool

For two straight years the City of San Angelo pumped water from the South Pool at Twin Buttes for the ostensible reason of saving five feet of water evaporation as a result of combining the two pools.  This was City Councilman Paul Alexander's frequent refrain.  Now that he's out of office Alexander had this to say (via San Angelo Live):

“In the beginning God had a plan and it involved rivers. Water was sent down rivers and that is how it naturally all went, and rivers lose very little water. But when we started damming up the water we created a situation like a pan, spreading out the surface area, and then we lose water very quickly. So we reconfigured the water (system) and we’re losing all of our water. That is point number one. Point number two is that the Watermaster, which is TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality), requires that we release the same amount of water that would enter the system naturally. In other words, we get to keep the storm water, but we don’t get to keep the river water.”
The city pumped the last two years to save water, only it pumped water from a bowl (the South Pool) into the variable bottom North Pool (with many cake pan like sections).  No model was created that took into account pumping losses from seepage, thirsty vegetation and evaporation or the two pools' elevation and bottom topography.

Plus the level of the North Pool never rose more than a foot.  Mostly, it remained stable or declined.  South Pool water was a pass through helping to meet San Angelo's daily water needs.

Also not mentioned was the huge pipe sent to the South Pool in the mid 1990's intended to allow flow from the South Pool to Lake Nasworthy.  Former Water Chief Will Wilde never answered why this pipe was not installed.  Wilde had a direct conflict of interest via his cotton hobby farm which has rights to Twin Buttes water above a certain acre-feet level.  Wilde negotiated a deal for/with the city to trade this obligation for all the city's treated water.  While farmers got a lesser annual amount they, including Wilde, have a predictable irrigation source year in and year out.

Back to Councilman Alexander:

“In my opinion we can maintain Nasworthy this way through May, and that would get us to the boat races. However, any rain we got would boost that…here is the problem, if we don’t have any pumps set up and going, and we were to get good rains, the water would just go into the South Pool at Twin Buttes and sit there, we still can’t get it into Nasworthy. We must have pumps to get the water into Nasworthy, the level is too low to flow through on its own…so they would need to order the pumps and set them up and it would cost about $120,000 per month to run them. If we started pumping right now, it would take about 45 days to move the (approximately) 2,500 acre-feet of water. So what I’m thinking now is that is economically important for us to spend $200,000 to support Nasworthy through June for the races, so we can keep the momentum of that event going.”
The current city council wasn't happy about spending $10,000 on RiverFest, even with its fundraising and economic impact.  This $200,000 bill would need to be added to all the other ways the city funds the annual Showdown in San Angelo boat races.  I imagine its a hefty number.

The South Pool has to rise five more feet to be at the lip of the equalization channel.  That won't happen without a major runoff event.  The South Concho River is the only perennial flow river in our area.  It feeds the South Pool.  For the last decade the city talked about pumping or pumped the South Pool three times.  That the city only has an expensive, temporary solution is telling.  It looks like someone didn't want their water messed with.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

South Pool's Future Mirrors Past

Twin Buttes' South Pool is up nearly a foot since I last visited.  That's in stark contrast to every other lake in town.  The City of San Angelo warned about a declining Lake Nasworthy and its potential impact on boaters and recreational users.

There has been no discussion yet on what to do with roughly 2,000 acre feet in the South Pool.  The lake level should continue its winter rise if left untouched.  I don't think it will reach the height needed to flow into the Equalization Channel without major runoff rains. 

It remains to be seen how this water is transferred for municipal use.  Pumping to the equalization channel and having the water gravity fed led to huge losses from seepage and evaporation.  Water Chief Ricky Dickson never updated the prior year's loss analysis, as requested by Council, but then again, he never provided Council the 60 day update after initiating pumping in 2013.

Will South Pool water make it to Lake Nasworthy in time for the Lucas Oil Boat Races?  God knows I'm praying for rain, warmer weather and wind. Our real winter has cut into my windsurfing time.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

San Angelo's Dire Water Situation

The City of San Angelo issued a press release on area lakes which serve as our water supply.  The last time they gave an update was in November. 

The City of San Angelo’s Water Utilities Department continues to monitor the level of Lake Nasworthy to advise citizens who live around the lake and those who use the reservoir for recreational activities of the changing conditions.

The City continues to release water from Nasworthy downstream to water rights holders in accordance with the Concho Water Master Program, as stipulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  

The City has pumped all the water it can from Twin Buttes into Nasworthy. Without replenishing rainfall, Nasworthy’s level will continue to decline. During the remaining fall and winter months, the decline should be minimal as cooler temperatures result in reduced water usage and evaporation rates. Also, water usage is lowest in the winter – about 9 million gallons per day. Summertime usage can be two to three times that amount, depending upon the watering restrictions in place. 

The City is currently relying on O.H. Ivie Reservoir for most of its raw water needs. The City will continue to use O.C. Fisher Reservoir as a resource until that source is depleted. San Angelo has about 15 months of available water supply, assuming no rainfall or runoff during that span.

Without adequate rainfall, Lake Nasworthy’s water level will see dramatic changes during the spring and summer of 2014. Increased demands and evaporation will have a significant impact on lake levels. As of Jan. 15, Nasworthy was at 72 percent of its capacity; Ivie was at 14 percent, and Fisher and Twin Buttes were at 1 percent each.

The Texas Water Development Board estimates San Angelo’s reservoirs lost more than 5 feet of elevation to evaporation in 2013.

The City urges lakefront homeowners to monitor the lake for changing conditions.

Area windsurfers should be aware of a large rock just off the boat ramp at Mary Lee Park.  There could be other obstructions.  That said the South Pool at Twin Buttes was up nearly four feet last time I checked.  I plan to go out soon to record its current level.

Note:  The picture above is from October when the pumps had drawn nearly all they could from the North Pool.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

South Pool Up Over 3 Feet

The South Concho River restored the South Pool somewhat the last few months. Last February City Council voted to pump the South Pool for the second year in a row. 


Interim Water Utilities Director Ricky Dickson presented background information.  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.

Further discussion was held on allowing staff the flexibility to adjust the start date; the transfer of water in relation to the water conservation stages; and creating measurement data based on the transfer of water, the amount of water pumped, and the amount of water lost as a result of the process. Mr. Dickson advised an environmental assessment will be required before work can begin near the equalization channel. Mayor New suggested staff approach the Bureau of Reclamation to gather that information and move towards capital improvements to the area.

A vote was taken on the motion on the floor. Motion carried unanimously.

The 60 day update never happened.  No measurement data was ever presented to Council.  It remains to be seen when this item returns to Council's agenda.