Aquifer storage not likely soon

April 30, 2014

On any given day in August, water lost to evaporation in Texas is more than water used by the public, Austin water consultant Bill Millican said at a board meeting of the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (GCD).

With underground storage, there’s no water lost to evaporation, he noted.

Richard English, a board member with the Upper Trinity GCD, noted that aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) systems are becoming a focus in certain areas of the state.

“However, I feel we are a long way from the technology becoming feasible, or necessary, in our area,” he said.

Likewise, aquifer storage is not in the works for the Brazos River Authority. BRA spokeswoman Judi Pierce explained that aquifer storage may be considered in the future, “but we have no projects currently in progress.”

While the process to store water underground is not widespread in Texas, Millican said aquifer storage is not a new idea.

ASR systems are in place across the country, including numerous systems in Florida, California and Arizona.

Millican thinks Texans are ready to look at this alternate water storage idea.

“The real problem is that it is not understood here,” he said.

The water injected for aquifer storage could come from excess rainwater, treated wastewater or surface water that is appropriated – but not used. The water stored in an aquifer can be used when additional water is needed, possibly during drought years.

Water injected into the aquifer creates a bubble, and very little of the new water mixes with the existing water, Millican explained.

The process does not affect existing wells, he said. “If anything, the pressure might cause water levels to rise a little.”

In Texas, there are three ASR facilities.

Developed in 1985, the El Paso project injects recycled water. A second system was completed in Kerrville for the Upper Guadalupe River Authority in 1995. The third system was built by the San Antonio Water System in south Bexar County and came online in June 2004.

Millican indicated the San Antonio Water System stored 45,000 acre-feet of water in an ASR a few years back when water was plentiful.

Officials with the Tarrant Regional Water District, as well as Corpus Christi, Lubbock and Austin, are looking at possible ASRs to help meet future water needs, Millican said.

New reservoirs will also be important in the mix to meet water demands from a growing population, he added.

However, in some areas of the country, water providers are finding the construction of new reservoirs can be more costly than creating aquifer storage.

In the Hood County area, aquifer storage is not likely in the near future.

“Both Granbury and AMUD have enough raw water under contract with the Brazos River Authority to satisfy expected needs for the next 30 years,” said English, the longtime general manager for the Acton Municipal Utility District.

“Especially when coupled with established alternatives such as the reuse of wastewater treatment plant effluent for non-potable irrigation. This alone has the potential to greatly reduce our annual per capita demand for potable water for household use,” English said.

The BRA is focusing on several other water supply projects including Allens Creek Reservoir, groundwater conjunctive use and the System Operations permit, Pierce reported.

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