While Henrietta residents have made great strides in water conservation, state regulators and city finances continue to hinder efforts in securing an alternative water source.
A plan to reuse clean water produced by one of the city’s two sewage treatment facilities has been put on hold after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality derailed the project.
Troy Potts, public works director for the City of Henrietta, said the plan would have added an estimated 70,000 gallons per day to the river, which could then be pumped into the reservoir and treated for use as potable water.
As part of the 2010 water infrastructure improvement project, the city received approval from TCEQ to construct a water discharge line from the north wastewater treatment plant to a point on the Little Wichita River approximately three miles upstream from the city reservoir. Effluent is now released into the river downstream from the reservoir, and flows into the Red River.
With intentions of seeking emergency grant funds through the USDA’s drought assistance program, the city applied in May to re-permit the project through the TCEQ, at which time the state commission informed city officials that the new permit would require the city to construct nine “polishing” ponds, encompassing 23 acres. The additional requirement made the project financial unfeasible, with costs surpassing the maximum grant amount of $500,000.
Water wells are also cost prohibitive, said City Manager Kelley Bloodworth. A well completed in May on the courthouse square is producing 8 gallons per minute according to County Judge Kenneth Liggett, but Bloodworth said that to supply Henrietta with adequate water would require 37 wells, drilled to state specifications.
“That’s fine, but how are you going to pay for that. We’re talking about millions of dollars and it would be years away,” said Bloodworth.
The city is already paying two bonds, $3.2 million for the 2010 water project that matures in 2036, and a $1.8 bond for a 1986 project that will mature in 2026. Both bonds funded improvements necessary to meet state requirements.
Bloodworth and Potts have lauded city water customers for their conservation efforts.
When Potts came to the City of Henrietta in October 2011, the city treated 1.1 million gallons of potable water per day. In April of this year, city production fell to 282,000 gallons per day as consumers decreased usage by 74.4 percent.
Water releases from Lake Arrowhead are required to fill the city reservoir. By law, the City of Wichita Falls is required to release 1,560 acre-feet per year into the Little Wichita River for use by the City of Henrietta. In May, the city received 115 acre-feet, bringing the year’s total to 290. Last year, Henrietta called for only 780 acre-feet.
As of Monday, Lake Arrowhead is at 22.1 percent capacity according to the City of Wichita Falls.