We made much progress last year in support of our mission to provide the essential services of water, wastewater and solid waste disposal that North Texans depend on 24/7. Fulfilling this mission requires well-maintained infrastructure, which includes pipes and pumps as well as treatment and disposal facilities.
60 years of service: Cause for celebration and improvements
In November, the District celebrated 60 years of delivering drinking water to communities in North Texas from Lavon Lake, our primary water source. And this year, we are upgrading our oldest water treatment plant to ensure reliable service well into the future.
Other District plants and facilities are undergoing improvements and expansions to meet new regulatory requirements, and upgrade operations and technology. The population served by NTMWD is expected to double over the next 50 years, and we are acting now to meet future needs.
Water supplies: Protecting today’s and securing tomorrow’s
We rely on water supplies from lakes Lavon, Texoma, Chapman and Tawakoni. The District also gets water from our wetland reuse project in Kaufman County. The wetland plays a valuable role in our water cycle as aquatic plants naturally filter the water before it is piped north to Lavon Lake for blending and eventual treatment for drinking water supplies. To increase the capacity of the wetlands, we’re constructing the Trinity River Main Stem Pump Station and Pipeline project.
Once complete in early 2019, the project will allow us to divert additional flows from the Trinity River south of Dallas into the wetlands. With this expanded capacity, the wetlands can provide up to 100 million gallons of water a day pumped north to Lavon.
It remains imperative that we work to protect the quantity and quality of existing supplies while securing new ones. NTMWD will continue promoting WaterMyYard.org to help residents know “when to water and when to wait.” Conservation is a critical part of our long-term water supplies.
Last year, the District launched a watershed protection planning effort to protect the quality of our water sources by increasing awareness of potential contaminants and nutrients that may runoff into the creeks, streams and lakes that supply our region’s drinking water. Public stakeholder meetings will continue this year to help guide the development of a formal regional plan.
We anticipate 2017 will conclude the decade-long permitting process for the proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir (LBCR) in Fannin County. The District has been working diligently with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to complete the final permitting requirements. In December, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act federal legislation was approved, including bi-partisan support for an amendment to keep the project permit on schedule. We greatly appreciate the support of our area Congressional leaders for this effort. Staff is preparing for construction to begin in early 2018 and for the project to be online by 2022.
Wastewater system initiatives
Looking ahead, other key initiatives in 2017 involve improvements and expansions to our wastewater treatment facilities, including the Wilson Creek, Rowlett Creek and Stewart Creek West plants. NTMWD will work closely with Member Cities on wastewater infrastructure condition assessments and public education programs, such as Defend Your Drains, to increase system reliability and minimize wastewater blockage issues.
Solid waste system improvements
Construction on the Lookout Drive Transfer Station improvement project in Richardson is expected to be completed by May 2017. Upgrades at the Parkway Transfer Station in Plano and at the 121 Regional Disposal Facility (landfill) in Melissa will occur throughout the year. Last summer, we added 23 new gas wells to the landfill to help control odor and to harvest the gas produced by the decomposition of solid waste. This spring, we will begin a gas-to-energy production project that will enable us to capture, clean and convert the landfill gas to natural gas. This project will help generate revenue and offset the operating costs of our solid waste system.
Investing in our future presents benefits and challenges
While vital to reliably meet the region’s growing needs, investments in critical improvements and expansions to our far-reaching systems mean rising capital costs, borrowing and rates. Throughout 2016, the District facilitated discussions with our Member Cities about the allocation of the regional water system costs. All 13 Member Cities participated in a number of meetings to discuss potential alternatives to the water supply contract structure, and we appreciate their support and input to help identify and evaluate possible options.
Unfortunately, it’s a complex issue with no easy solution. A change to one city’s allocation of the system costs impacts the remaining cities. Water conservation is affecting provider revenues across the nation while infrastructure costs are rising, regardless of annual consumption trends. We’re committed to working productively and collaboratively with the cities to resolve this issue as soon as possible for the long-term benefit of the region and to continue providing the reliable, essential services that are the foundation of thriving communities of North Texas.
Working with our cities, we must help residents understand that water rates pay for #MoreThanWater. It’s important for them to understand the funding required for critical pipes, pumps, treatment and testing to ensure they receive high quality, reliable water delivered to their tap 24/7.
Tom Kula, Executive Director of NTMWD