Thomas W. (Tom) Kula
The first forty years of the history of the North Texas Municipal Water District is a fascinating story and well documented in our 1994 publication "Gift of Water, Legacy of Service.” The last chapter, titled “Lessons of the Past and a Look Toward the Future,” highlights the importance of our mission.
"To ensure that our children's children have the quantity and quality of water they need, we have to keep our eyes focused on 2050,” said Loncy Leake, then Chairman of the NTMWD Water Committee and director from Mesquite. “Persistent planning for the future is all that's allowed our water supply to stay ahead of a constantly increasing demand."
Today's District staff and Board of Directors are committed to overcoming the towering challenges that lie ahead, as the District has always been. We have two important near-term projects to provide additional water supplies for our growing region and are seeking federal permits for both: the Trinity River Main Stem Pump Station to divert additional water through our wetlands project for reuse, and the Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Reservoir in Fannin County. The future of North Texas depends on these projects getting approved and built.
In 1990, James Nichols, chairman of Freese & Nichols, Inc., consulting engineers for NTMWD, penned a letter expressing his dire concern that the number of water projects would fail to meet the demand of our growing region in as few as 50 years. We are now halfway through that 50 year period, and we can see that the region has grown even more than predicted - doubling from 800,000 to 1.6 million and due to double again in the next 40 years. This is why it is imperative that projects, like the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir and the Trinity River Main Stem Pump Station, are approved and built as soon as possible so we can meet our growing demand for water services.
“We need vision for the future… [and] we need perseverance for both the future and the present,” said Leake in the closing chapter of our history book. “We have to keep a ‘worst-case scenario’ in mind, even during wet cycles like the one we’ve been experiencing lately, when none of our cities are even using the minimum amount of water under their contracts.” Leake’s words ring even truer now than ever before, reminding us to plan ahead for the dramatic swings in North Texas weather patterns.
The future will always present formidable obstacles, but it also provides opportunity for those who are willing and able to make the climb. As Truett Smith, one of the NTMWD founders from Wylie, might say: "Bring on the next forty years!"
December 11, 2015
Water. It’s a natural resource we must provide, protect, build, resupply and use wisely. When you turn the tap, you expect clean, treated water to drink and use for your daily needs. The reliable, safe water supply that’s delivered to our homes and businesses each day is made possible by extensive pipes and systems across north Texas. It is the driving force of community and business vitality. With so much riding on the availability of this valuable resource, we can’t afford to relax in our water planning.
The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) was formed in the early 1950s as a result far-sighted leaders from ten original cities who came together with the common goal of meeting the region’s water needs. The NTMWD then built the necessary pipelines and systems to treat and transport water from Lavon Lake to its Member Cities. Those cities – Farmersville, Forney, Garland, McKinney, Mesquite, Plano, Princeton, Rockwall, Royse City and Wylie – had a combined population of approximately 30,000 in 1953. Additional Member Cities joined later including: Richardson (1973), Allen (1998) and Frisco (2001). Today, the NTMWD supplies water to more than 1.6 million consumers. That number is expected to grow to 3.5 million residents in the next 50 years.
We are already seeing signs of that growth with recent headlines about our thriving cities – from the $5-Billion-Mile along the Dallas North Tollway in Frisco to the new Toyota Headquarters, other business and mixed use developments in Plano and in Richardson near the new State Farm headquarters campus. Cities within our region are receiving lots of recognition as being among the fastest growing cities in the U.S., healthiest housing markets, and best places to live in America or raise a family.
While we’re actively planning and building projects to meet growing needs, the NTMWD is responsible for operating and maintaining our existing complex water systems, including 566 miles of pipelines, 17 pump stations and six water treatment plants.
Today, NTMWD Member Cities pay $2.06 per thousand gallons of water. To pay the debt on past bond-funded projects and invest in required system improvements, we are proposing a 23 cent increase (per thousand gallons). That equates to a wholesale cost of one-fourth of a penny per gallon to pay for hundreds of miles of pipes, pumping and treatment costs, as well as to fund projects we must start now to ensure reliable water supplies in the future. The end user water rate varies in each city. Even with this proposed increase, NTMWD wholesale water rates are comparable to similar water suppliers in north Texas.
In addition to providing treated water to cities, the NTMWD operates a regional wastewater system. Our crews manage 17 wastewater treatment plants and maintain more than 250 miles of large-diameter pipelines to collect and transport each city’s wastewater for treatment to meet environmental regulations. The regional wastewater system has enabled cities to share costs and avoid building or maintaining individual systems to support each community. This approach has worked well for a number of decades.
Expanding and improving the system to support new development and environmental regulations are two key factors driving wastewater costs. Rather than a specific rate per unit, each city pays its proportionate share of the total annual wastewater system costs based on the amount of its flows coming into the system for treatment.
During recent drought conditions, all of us in Texas have been saving water to protect supplies. This year, significant spring rains combined with our customers’ continued conservation efforts have resulted in lower water use. While conservation is critical to extend supplies, it has presented significant challenges for our cities as they struggle to cover ongoing costs with reduced revenues. Regardless of the amount of water used, there are fixed costs to operate, maintain and repay the bonds for pipelines and facilities.
Some of our Member Cities are asking for change, and we are working to facilitate that dialogue. The NTMWD Board recently authorized staff to establish a protocol for Member Cities to come together and discuss these issues. Every Member and Customer city will have the opportunity to participate, just as they joined together to address past challenges.
While it is a welcome relief to have our lakes full from rains earlier this year, we know we can’t rest. We must apply our collective energies to planning for the future because water is a finite resource that is essential for life as well as the growth and vitality of the region. The future of north Texas depends on it.
August 31, 2015