What are the WHCRWA fees that appear on water bills and what are they used for?
The WHCRWA fee that appears on residents’ water bills is charged for water pumped by the utility districts (well pumpage fee) and for surface water (surface water fee) provided to them by the WHCRWA. The utility districts in turn charge their individual customers for the water they use, and sometimes modify the fee charged them by the WHCRWA as pass through cost on the retail water bill to cover such things as leaks in their system, and fire hydrant use.
The WHCRWA uses the fees collected to fund its capital, operations/maintenance and debt service budgets. The vast majority of budgetary allocations go toward debt service, buying surface water, and paying for the system needed to deliver surface water from City of Houston-owned drinking water sources to the MUDs within WHCRWA’s boundaries.
The first phase of the HGSD’s groundwater reduction mandate was met in 2010, which reduced reliance on groundwater in the area by 30 percent. The next deadline is 2025 and requires 60 percent conversion to alternate (or surface) water.
Will we have enough water for the future?
Fortunately, the Houston region can rely on the surface water resources secured more than 50 years ago with the construction of the water storage reservoirs fed by the San Jacinto and Trinity Rivers. The City of Houston has over 1.2 billion gallons per day of reliable surface water rights. Combined with its groundwater supply, this is enough to meet the needs of the region through approximately 2050 and beyond.
To meet future demand, the WHCRWA is partnering with the City of Houston and other area water Authorities to utilize the available water supply on the Trinity River and get it to where it is needed most – in west, central and north Harris County and north Fort Bend County. That involves constructing new pipelines, pump stations and expanding the water treatment plant’s capacity.
The Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project will bring raw water from the Trinity River in a system of canals and pipelines. Construction is underway on the Capers Ridge Pump Station on the river’s west bank that, when fully functional, will be able to divert up to 500 million gallons of water a day from the river, pump it into side-by-side pipelines to flow underground to a storage and sedimentation basin. Then it will flow into a canal that runs to the northeastern tip of Lake Houston.
With the availability of more raw water coming into the Lake Houston reservoir, there was an urgent need for additional treatment capacity. The City’s Northeast Water Purification Plant (NEWPP) is being expanded by the City of Houston, the WHCRWA, and its partners. This multi-billion dollar project — to be accomplished in phases over the next 4 to 6 years —will add 320 million gallons a day of treatment capacity.
The Surface Water Supply Project is a huge, landmark project that will deliver water treated at the Northeast Water Purification Plant through large diameter transmission lines (as large as 8 ft.) across almost 54 miles to west Harris and Fort Bend counties. The pipeline is a joint project between WHCRWA and the North Fort Bend Water Authority.
The WHCRWA will also fund its Capital Improvement Plan that includes constructing new water distribution lines within their boundaries to convert an additional 43 MUD water plants to surface water.