Sunday, December 1, 2013

Texas Aquifer Grab Funded by Cheap, Borrowed Money

The AP reported:

Officials from the few rural counties where voters opposed a $2 billion water spending measure that was overwhelmingly approved are wary of big-city thirsts sucking them dry.

The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday that the 20 rural counties which voted down the measure — about 8 percent of all Texas counties — are uniquely able to produce water. Those county leaders now fear their needs will be sacrificed to maintain economic and population growth in Texas.

The water measure borrows from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to jump-start new pipeline and conservation projects. It passed by a 3-to-1 margin and was among the biggest and most ambitious plans passed by the Legislature this spring.
With Twin Buttes Reservoir and O.C. Fisher Lake nearly dry, San Angelo is in the race for new water sources (in addition to the just finished Hickory Aquifer pipeline).

Greg Flores, the vice president of public affairs for the San Antonio Water System, said the system has tapped area aquifers for water.

Flores said the state’s population will roughly double in 50 years, with most of that growth in urban areas. The state has to plan and make water available for urban growth to prosper.

Flores said Texas’ surface water — the water in lakes and rivers — is all already allocated and permitted for all practical purposes.  “So the state is going to have to look to groundwater to meet those future demands,” he said.

How many straws can be stuck in the Earth for groundwater?  Surely, that will impact spring and stream flow. 
In Bastrop County, which was among the counties that voted no, county Judge Paul Pape says residents have concerns about the exploitation of their underlying aquifer.

“We are not happy about making it easier or cheaper for water marketers or profiteers to pump and pipe our water away from here,” Pape said. “Someday in the future, we are going to need that water.”

And it won't be there.   Texas is now wide open for the greed and leverage boys and their billions in infrastructure money.  Private equity underwriters (PEU's) already own public water systems in California and Montana.  Come on down boys, the debt's cheap and the franchise solid.  Texas is now PEU country, water-wise.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

City Leaders Finally Report to Council on Twin Buttes Pumping

San Angelo's Water Department Chief Ricky Dickson finally gave City Council an update on pumping water from Twin Buttes to Lake Nasworthy.  It's over.  This could have been reported in mid-September or mid-October when the pumps sucked air.  The question is whether the city will continue paying Gajeske rent for three pumps and piping. I plan to listen to the Council meeting on YouTube and will add an update based on what I learn. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

South Concho Water Rights Holder Speaks Up

The following letter was published in Livestock Weekly and the author gave permission to run it on Twin Buttes Reservoir:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for including an update regarding the TCEQ watermaster program and the Texas Farm Bureau lawsuit on the Brazos River. Coincidentally, there have recently been two letters to the editor regarding opposing viewpoints concerning the authority of the TCEQ over our neighbors on the San Saba River and Bear Creek. There appears to be a growing backlash to the watermaster program across the state, which can be confusing since their advertised role is to “ensure compliance with water rights by monitoring stream flows, lake levels, and water use”.

Through our ongoing drouth, the TCEQ’s alleged shift from protecting senior water rights to prioritizing junior municipalities, power generators and golf courses has brewed real discord along the river. Additionally, the watermaster program, which the papered water rights holders are forced to fund, serves as a landscape help line, policing a broad interpretation of the “domestic and livestock riparian water right” to include irrigating acres of lush St. Augustine grass for mowing, as a priority over historical, appropriated use.

I think Livestock Weekly readers would benefit from an article detailing the long-running Concho Watermaster program, also headquartered at San Angelo. The TCEQ Concho River Watermaster program is only on its third watermaster, survives despite its ability to ignore unlawful acts, even has a local farmer-group lawsuit currently pending in district court, and the whole story occurs in Livestock Weekly’s back yard.

I want to warn that the water situation at San Angelo is complicated, and your reporters may have some difficulty navigating the details. And since the TCEQ has recently fortified their San Angelo offices behind an electronic locking door from their newly remodeled public waiting room, complete with a stainless payment slot at the bottom of a new bulletproof, bank teller-style window which might as well sport a sign that reads “No Service”, I’ll offer a few pointers.

The main problem for this article is how do you accurately explain that Twin Buttes Reservoir is actually two lakes, collecting two major watersheds, with its two separate “pools” located three miles apart? Twin Buttes’ two “pools” are connected by a dirt “equalization channel,” but built with only a single outlet for the whole lake system, resulting in the illegal termination of the South Concho River, outside of flood events. Then you’d have to explain how San Angelo’s responsible for laundering the South Concho River’s streamflow into the south pool by releasing an equivalent amount of north pool water out of Twin Buttes’ only outlet, as calculated by the USGS streamflow gauge at Christoval.

And if you bring up the USGS gauge at Christoval, you’d have to report that out of the thousands of streamflow gauges operated by the USGS, the gauge at Christoval is the only gauge USGS funds which reads half the river, due to its location 300 feet downstream of the 115 year-old South Concho Irrigation Canal’s dam and constant flow headgate.

It would also be pertinent to point out that without limiting boards placed in the headgate at the South Concho Irrigation Canal’s dam, the South Concho River can basically be diverted around the pesky USGS streamflow gauge at Christoval. And in 2011, an affected senior water right holder on the South Concho forced the watermaster to place the limiting boards in the canal headgate for the first time in the watermaster’s history. Most readers could conclude, if they knew that the “undocumented water” in the South Concho Irrigation Canal returns to the South Concho River, five miles downstream of the South Concho streamflow gauge at Christoval, that the “extra” volume which flows into the south pool of Twin Buttes historically has not been credited to San Angelo’s Twin Buttes release requirement.

So the story would return to Twin Buttes Reservoir, where we’d look to the Bureau of Reclamation’s subcontractor in charge of monitoring the lake(s), which, in an odd case of the fox being in charge of the hen house, turns out to be the City of San Angelo and their unique, federally funded “lake operations” division of the San Angelo Water department. In another helpful exemption by the first Concho River watermaster, the City of San Angelo’s streamflow responsibility was moved to the beginning of town, as the rivers enter city limits, because, unlike the rest of Texas, which is responsible for streamflow until the river leaves the city/property limits, because … (insert any fathomable, nefarious, whiney reason here, because the reason doesn’t matter). What matters is that regardless of why, regardless of historic water use laws, and regardless of reality, the TCEQ Concho watermaster makes all of this possible.

Before the Concho watermaster, when San Angelo faced water shortages, the city paid senior water rights not to pump. Now the watermaster enforces “curtailments” on senior ag users to benefit municipalities without the need for municipalities compensating senior water rights holders. The TCEQ has its sights on controlling all of the surface water in the state, and without better producer communication, we are going to pay to have our own throats cut. I’m optimistic that the Brazos River TCEQ article, as well as a few timely letters to the editor, could prime the pump for future investigative reporting by Livestock Weekly on the uneven playing field which we are beginning to recognize as the TCEQ watermaster program.

Brian Treadwell
South Concho River senior water right holder
Christoval, Texas

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

O. C. Fisher Beneficiary of Rains

NOAA's gauges indicated only one lake received substantial runoff from the area's recent rains, O. C. Fisher Lake.  This was due to a rapid rise in the North Concho River on Monday. 

Lake Ivie and the North Pool at Twin Buttes remained at levels prior to our area's rains.

The South Pool has no gauge, however the South Concho River showed no rise, unlike its Northern counterpart.

I tried to post a piece last night on O. C. Fisher's eight foot rise but Blogger wouldn't cooperate.  Waiting a day enabled an extra foot to enter the lake.  Might another lake be the beneficiary of future rains?  I'm praying for it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

South Pool to Benefit?

Former City Councilman Paul Alexander once stated "a medium rain would refill the South Pool overnight."  The City pumped it near dry this summer. 

Time will tell if Paul's theory applies to this world.  One failure of a theory requires its modification.  Let's hope he's right and this medium rain refills the South Pool. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

North Pool Tapped Out

I visited the North Pool at Twin Buttes to document the lake's current level.  The picture above was shot from Fin Buster's Beach.  When I moved to San Angelo in 1994 this was under water.  It's rocky knoll claimed numerous windsurfing fins, including one of mine

Yesterday, City pumps stood silent, incapable of pumping more water from their current placement.  They'd successfully removed the foot of water from recent runoff.

As I walked I noticed the usual broken glass and trash the City and Bureau of Reclamation seemingly care little about.  But what struck me more were the natural sights and sounds.  Fish jumped, some leaving whopper sized wakes, and the surface revealed a plethora of birds, ducks, herons, and egrets.  Shallow water made the North Pool a concentrated feeding ground for those in and out of the water.

I'd walked across the Middle Concho years ago, but had to walk upstream a ways to find land dry enough to do so.  Not yesterday. This view is from the top of the riverbank.

From inside:

I have many images of Twin Buttes stored in my mind.  This is the lowest I've seen.  I'm praying for heavy runoff rains.

Update 1-16-14:  The City finally issued a press release stating it pumped all the water it could from Twin Buttes.  That's three months after this post.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Twin Buttes Feeders

Four tributaries feed Twin Buttes Reservoir, Dove Creek, Spring Creek, as well as the South and Middle Concho Rivers.  The Middle Concho River is the least predictable provider of water.  Historically, the South Concho, Spring Creek and Dove Creek flowed year round.

With drought and oilfield water use Spring Creek no longer has perennial flow.  Several times this year Spring Creek had no flow.  The South Concho had reduced flow this year, but recent rains have it adding volume to Twin Buttes South Pool.

When all four tributaries are in flood huge volumes can flow into Twin Buttes.  Consider this event from August 1996:

Thunderstorms developed during the night of August 28th over the Concho Valley and became stationary over Irion and southern Tom Green counties through the morning of the 30th. Rainfall amounts of around 6 to 7 inches occurred to the south of San Angelo in Christoval and to the west of San Angelo in Mertzon.

The flooding quickly subsided on the evening of August 29th as the water rushed into Twin Buttes Reservoir in southwest San Angelo. The amount of water in the reservoir rose from near 22,000 acre feet to 60,280 acre feet as the height rose 18 feet. This water was a welcomed sight to residents of the Concho Valley, as the drought this year had left lakes and reservoirs very low.
Last fall Twin Buttes had a seven foot rise after flooding rains.  Seven feet of new water would isolate Gajeske's pumps at the North Pool.  Eighteen feet would inundate them and their diesel fuel tanks.

The pumps have been silent since they removed the foot of recent runoff.  I'm headed out to the North Pool to see if they're still there.  I went to the South Pool yesterday and the South Concho's flow has it looking more like a lake.

What might both pools look like after a potentially heavy rainfall event, predicted Sunday through Tuesday?

Update 10-13-13:  Eastern Tom Green County is currently under a Flash Flood Warning due to a stationary thunderstorm like August 1996, only much more rain is anticipated.  This should help Lake Ivie.   I went to Twin Buttes North Pool yesterday and the pumps were high and dry, as was the Middle Concho River (pictures to come).

Update 2-10-14:  San Angelo Live did a story on the Concho Valley's various watersheds.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Special Weather Statement for 10-12 to 10-15

West Central Texas Lakes at Twin Buttes Reservoir

The National Weather Service in San Angelo issued the following weather statement:


Is the City prepared to move Gajeske's pumps?  A runoff event like September 2012 would put them underwater.   Pray for a big rain, huge runoff and a prepared City Water Department. 

Update 10-12-13:  The event shifted slightly with heavier rains expected Sunday through Wednesday.  A four day rain event could be an incredible blessing for our parched lakes.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Perry to Ride into Thirsty San Angelo

Fresh from his stint on CNBC selling Texas' low tax status, Governor Rick Perry will speak today on the topic of water in San Angelo.  The Standard Times reported Perry will speak from an undisclosed location at an unknown time on West Texas' need for water.  Perry wants to divert $2 billion from the Rainy Day fund to create a water infrastructure bank.

West Texas has oilfield companies poking holes in the ground for water.  Their trucks eat up highways, already behind on maintenance from both a municipal and state perspective.

Our region's water landscape is dire, between population growth and oil/gas drilling. Dove Creek rose to five feet in rains two weeks ago.  Spring Creek didn't rise at all.

An oilfield company plans to take water from the ground right where Lopez Draw intermittently flows.  Did any Lopez Draw water actually make it to Spring Creek during recent rains?  Is Governor Perry paying any attention to this?  He sure seemed to enjoy his time in New Jersey. 

As for Perry's undisclosed location and time for his meeting, it's clear the public is not invited.  We're to foot the bill for his heady life, meeting with news anchors, athletes and titans of industry.

Update:  The Standard Times reported  "Gov. Rick Perry visited San Angelo today and encouraged Texans to vote for Proposition 6 on Nov. 5.  “I understand the anxiety that occurs when you endlessly scan the sky for rain,” Perry said during a noon news conference Wednesday at San Angelo State Park, with dried O.C. Fisher behind him.  Perry was joined by about 50 people, including county and city officials, local businesspeople and representatives from the Upper Colorado River Authority.  Proposition 6 will amend the state constitution to transfer $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to finance water projects for local entities, such as pipelines, desalination plants and mesquite removal.  “It’s vital for local communities to have their say,” Perry said, urging San Angeloans and all West Texans to vote on the critical issue."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gajeske's Pumps Safe

The North Pool at Twin Buttes rose nearly one foot from area rains.  This is in contrast to last September's deluge which sent seven feet of water into the North Pool.  Such a rise would've imperiled Gajeske's three pumps moving water from the North Pool into Lake Nasworthy.

Flow in the South Concho increased according to a local landowner, although the gauge does not indicate such.  I look forward to visiting the South Pool to see if it's gone above mud puddle status.  Below is how it looked my last time out:

The rains were an absolute blessing by replenishing soil moisture.  I'm praying for more to refill our area lakes.

Update:  The Standard Times reported "Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Nasworthy should catch about 500 acre-feet each."  The City can pump that out in less than a week.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nasworthy Development Like Twin Buttes Recreation Plan

The City of San Angelo and their hired guns are zero for two in listening to area windsurfers on keeping access to area lakes.  Lauren Shrum placed windsurfing in the worst possible place at Twin Buttes South Pool in the Twin Buttes Recreation Plan.  Scott Polokaw did likewise at Lake Nasworthy putting windsurfing into the Special Opportunity Zone, not our current sailing site at the Nature Center next to Mary Lee Park. 

The consultants' presentation to focus group participants showed one resort hotel going in Lake Nasworthy's Mary Lee Park area.  Their City Council presentation had a second hotel at the old WTU power plant, which has been purchased by a private developer.  The owner's name was not disclosed.

Scott closed his presentation with a conceptual description of public-private development, which could involve the city trading land, ponying up direct subsidies to developers and changing zoning.  This plan was commissioned by a development oriented city council and staff.  It remains to be seen if their replacements feel likewise.

As a frequent user of local lakes, and currently down to only Lake Nasworthy for windsurfing, I'm disappointed by staff and consultants not listening to local citizens' needs.  I participated in public meetings, even wrote to consultants on their error in draft documents.  Nary a one showed they listened.  Windsurfing got slapped on the map, wherever they needed it to look good.   

I shared my expectation to have the same or better lake access when all is said and done.  Both consultants proposed much worse. The next public meeting on Lake Nasworthy development will be set "sometime in October" and the issue will come back to Council on November 5.

Update 9-21-13:  The Standard Times ran a poll on the city aggressively developing Lake Nasworthy as an asset.  As of now the numbers of voters are low, but universally negative.  The paper also did a piece on the plan.

Update 10-21-13:  I shared my concerns with PARC consultant Anna Mackey.  She wrote back, ".. we don't have any intention of having designated access for one sport in certain areas. We would like to have better organized access and parking on all areas of the lake to serve the many types of recreational use in a safe and thought out manner."  That theme was borne out this evening in a final public meeting on the Lake Nasworthy plan.  Peter Ravella presented the plan and encouraged interested members of the public to read the plan online.  The public interchange was diverse and fruitful.  

Update 11-2-13:  In the October 21 public meeting I asked for the  development plan to consider that windsurfers currently launch from the Nature Center at Mary Lee Park because it has a broad expanse of water.  Our request would maintain that access and added we would appreciate launch access from other shorelines with broad expanse.  I said my windsurfing trailer is much like a boat trailer for parking purposes.  Peter Ravella said they would give that consideration.  It's not in the draft plan embedded in the City Council background packet.  I've spoken three times to consultants and don't see evidence of listening in the draft plan.  This is worrisome given San Angelo City Council's propensity to adopt plans created by consultants on a wholesale basis.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lake Nasworthy On Its Own

The pumps at Twin Buttes North Pool stood silent today.  Given all three protective baskets were exposed to air, the pumps might not start again anytime soon.  The pipe would need to be run a fair distance to find deeper water. Lake Nasworthy might be on its own until rains come.

It looked like the city pumped two to three feet of water from Twin Buttes in the last month.  Should the city have a runoff event the size and scope of last September, these pumps would be at risk for flooding.  I'm sure the city has a plan to remove them in such a case.  I'm praying for healing rain and that our lake replenishment begins in earnest. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Emptying North Pool

The North Pool at Twin Buttes is one foot below dead pool status.  Texas Water Development Board shows the lake at 0% full, yet 2,500 acre feet is available from pumping.  How long before the city drains the North Pool too?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

North Pool's Pumping Setup: Closer View

Using a 6.5 square meter sail and light air racing sailboard, I made my way to the North Pool's pump area and shot a few pictures. 

One of the pump's intakes already had a bathtub-like swirlie on the surface.  I expect this setup to last two weeks or less if pumps are running full time.  It'll be interesting to see how far they have to run pipe to keep emptying the North Pool. 

This configuration is at risk for being flooded in a significant runoff event.  Last fall's 7,000 acre foot rise would inundate the pumps and their diesel tanks.  I'd like to think the city has a plan to move them should rivers and streams start flowing heavily.  That I'm praying for. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

North Pool Pump Setup

Twin Buttes Reservoir won't flow into Lake Nasworthy unless the City pumps it.  Gajeske's three pumps moved from the South Pool to the North.  The pumps sit to the right of the North Pool's huge gate.

When I arrived at the North Pool to see the setup I could hear the pumps running across the water.  They'd stopped by the time I left.  Later I drove over a nearly full Lake Nasworthy.  The City pumped Nasworthy up in time for Labor Day weekend.   

The remnants of South Pool pumping can be seen below.

The smell of diesel fuel arose from this spot:

The South Pool has a mere 200 acre feet, thanks to nearly four months of pumping.  It's the North Pool's turn to ensure Lake Nasworthy recreation and provide San Angelo municipal water.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

North Pool Headed to Dead Pool Status

The time nears for Gajeske's pumps to move to the North Pool, given it's approaching dead pool status  The three monster pumps took the South Pool from over 4,000 acre feet to less than 200.  The pumps ran for nearly four months at the South Pool.

Drought, evaporation and watershed groundwater depletion teamed up to leave Barnhart, Big Lake and Mertzon struggling to supply public water.  Meanwhile oilfield companies purchase water from ranchers and private property owners.  A friend owns property on Spring Creek, which stopped flowing more than once this year.  He said a neighbor sold a chunk of his land to oilfield companies and they're putting in multiple wells.

While Chuck Brown of the UCRA speaks of hurricanes and tropical storms filling our lakes, that hasn't been the case since I moved here in 1994.  The biggest refill I've experienced came from consistent rains over several seasons.  They recharged ground water, causing springs and rivers to run steady.  The water that took Twin Buttes from 3% full to 30% was crystal clear.  I could stand in shoulder deep water and see my toes.  I windsurfed what felt like the Caribbean, where rocks and vegetation could clearly be seen ten feet below.

With everybody putting a straw in the earth and selling the water to their brother, I'll venture that was my once in a lifetime experience.    People may see the bottom of Twin Buttes soon, but I doubt it's under a layer of water.

Update 8-12-13:  The Standard Times caught up to TBR with their story on moving the pumps.  Their story maintained the city's illusion that combining the pools would reduce evaporation.  The amount transferred from the South Pool went to the city's daily water use or seeped/evaporated in transfer.  There was nowhere near the promised five foot rise in the North Pool.  The South Pool furnished San Angelo water for nearly four months.  How much longer will the North Pool provide?. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

City Pumps Cease Again

As of August 1 all three pumps at the South Pool had stopped.  The City of San Angelo moved every bit of the recent runoff to the North Pool.

Recall Councilman Paul Alexander's assertion that pumping the South Pool would raise the North Pool by five feet?  Moving over 4,000 acre feet since mid April did virtually nothing.  On April 1 the North Pool stood at 1887.98 feet above sea level.  As of today the North Pool's elevation was 1887.09.  That's a drop of nearly one foot after three months of full bore pumping. 

At this point the next step for the South Pool is Mother Nature's.   The City could move the pumps to the North Pool, which will soon enter it's own dead pool status.  Also, it'll have been 105 days since pumping began when Council meets again.  If new Water Chief gives Council its requested update, it would be 55 days late.

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.  

Update 1-19-19:  The City of San Angelo acted to reuse its waste water as Twin Buttes took on significant runoff last fall.  Oddly, Yantis Green reported on this development without disclosing his former position with the Water Control District.

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:





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.