Water supplies feel stress

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“We all have straws in this glass.” – Clinton Bailey, the city's director of public works, on local water supplies. Photo illustration by Walt Biddle.

By Walt Biddle

Special to the Standard-Radio Post

 

When Clinton Bailey says, “We all have straws in this glass,” he means it. 

Bailey became Fredericksburg’s Director of Public Works three months ago. In that role, his responsibilities touch the lives of residents in a variety of ways, none more than the quality and quantity of water used.

The multi-year drought continues and Fredericksburg remains under Stage 4 water use restrictions. In addition to dealing with the current challenge of providing water to city residents, planning for future needs is a “front burner” item. 

“We are going to have to spend some money on additional water,” Bailey said.

Bailey, who drinks a half-gallon of unfiltered city tap water each day (there is usually a jug sitting by his desk), is serious about water conservation. 

“One inch of rain on a one 1,000-square-foot roof or impervious surface will yield about 600 gallons of water,” he said.

A significant number of the area’s older homes and some newly constructed residences have cisterns and other rainwater capture capabilities.

Even though the Fredericksburg area is not facing the explosive growth of many Texas cities, it shares its water sources with other communities that also rely on the Ellenburger, Hickory and Trinity aquifers, Bailey said.

Periodically, aquifers need time to recharge and return to normal levels, he said, and a lack of rainfall has put a dent in aquifer levels around the state.

Meanwhile, serious community conservation is the most reliable and cost effective way to make sure that quality water remains available.

Bailey said water resources will increasingly need to be evaluated on a regional basis, rather than just locally.

In some parts of Texas, the recent “oil boom” is using much of the ground water that was once used for agricultural irrigation. The newfound income is a big break for farmers, who were barely eking out a living only a few years ago. However, much of the water is now used in fracking and is no longer available for agricultural and human use.

All of Fredericksburg’s water comes from nine wells, Bailey said, with one additional well that will be available only for emergency usage because it contains contaminants.

Many residents do not realize the City of Fredericksburg does not have a water treatment facility. Our “Superior” rating for water quality only requires chlorination.

Right now, Fredericksburg loses about five percent of its delivered water because of leaks in water lines, Bailey said. Delivered water is water that actually leaves city facilities and is routed to homes and businesses.

Five percent is not an extraordinary amount for a community, but every gallon counts during a drought. The day-in-day-out, cumulative loss adds up. A water loss study is now underway to identify and repair leaks throughout the system.

 

New meters can track use

Fredericksburg’s new high-tech water meters are installed in 97 percent of the city’s residences. 

For more on this story, read this week’s print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!

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