Alternative Water Sources

ALTERNATIVES:  How could the amount of water to be drawn from Lake Conroe in the future be reduced?  “Alternatives” include:

  • Water conservation will be an integral part of reducing the amount of water drawn fromLakeConroe.  If we use less water, then we won’t have to draw as much.  Since a maximum of 100,000 acre feet per year can be drawn fromLakeConroeand more water than that will be needed someday, water conservation will be with us forever.  For a separate discussion of this, see “Water Conservation” below.
  • Utilizing waste effluent from treatment plants for irrigation will reduce our water use.  In summer months, it is estimated that 60% of our residential water use goes to irrigation (watering your yard and landscape).  In the winter, that estimate is 30%.  While it may be difficult to convert existing subdivisions and commercial development into users of effluent for irrigation (since the construction and infrastructure is already in place), new construction could much easier accommodate the use of effluent for irrigation by incorporating this concept into the planning stage of that development.
  • Further consideration must be given to Judge Sadler’s proposal of building two new reservoirs to capture water that would otherwise be released over the dam on Lake Conroe or lost elsewhere during periods of heavy rainfall.  Conceptually, these two reservoirs would capture water before it gets toLakeConroe.  If Lake Conroe were not full (at the 201 feet level), then the water would be allowed to flow into Lake Conroe.  If Lake Conroe were full and excess rains would be otherwise released downstream, these reservoirs would capture the water behind dams and hold it there until Lake Conroe needed it to fill the lake to the 201 feet level (normal pool elevation).  Clear obstacles to this proposal include the procurement of the land for the creation of the two reservoirs (some of which would have to come from the Sam Houston National Forest) and the multitude of environmental concerns related to such a project.  The cost of such a project has not yet been determined.  SJRA has agreed to conduct a feasibility study of this proposal, but a study date earlier than 2015 has not been agreed to yet by SJRA.  Approvals for and construction of such reservoirs would probably take a minimum of 20 to 30 years (remembering that our County’s water needs will be here forever).
  • Many have suggested that an “alternative” might be building a reservoir between Lake Conroe and The Woodlands which captures all water released over the dam atLakeConroe.  This “alternative” has been discounted based on the lack of a suitable site.  To be cost effective and practical, this reservoir would require too much land given the lack of undeveloped land between Lake Conroe and The Woodlands.

City of Houston May Request Water from Lake Conroe – SJRA Press Release

City of Houston May Request Water from Lake Conroe

Although an official notice has not yet been received, the City of Houston has given preliminary indications that it will soon request a measured release of water from its two-thirds share of the water rights in Lake Conroe to meet the City’s operational needs in Lake Houston. An exact quantity and start date is not yet known, but initial estimates are that the City might request a release of up to 150 million gallons per day beginning sometime within the next two weeks. This equates to approximately half an inch per day.

Engineering staff for the City of Houston have indicated that the purpose of the release is not to raise the level of Lake Houston but simply to stabilize the lake level for operational needs at the City’s Northeast Water Purification Plant. The amount of water requested from Lake Conroe would be adjusted daily based on weather conditions in the Lake Houston watershed, and the releases would likely continue until the current drought conditions begin to abate.

Lake Conroe was built as a joint venture between the City of Houston and the San Jacinto River Authority, with the City owning two-thirds of the water rights in the reservoir, and the SJRA owning the other one-third. In September of 2009, the SJRA and the City executed a long-term water supply contract that secured the SJRA’s right to use all of the water in Lake Conroe for the SJRA’s countywide Groundwater Reduction Plan (GRP) program. The GRP program will not need a significant amount of the City’s water until at least 2025, and during those years in which the City’s water is not used by the GRP, the contract allows the City to call on the water for its own short-term uses on a year-by-year basis.

Based on current weather patterns and inflows into Lake Houston, the SJRA does not currently see an immediate need to make any releases from the SJRA’s one-third share of Lake Conroe to meet the needs of its own downstream industrial customers; however, if severe drought conditions continue, it may become necessary for the SJRA to release a small amount of water in addition to the City of Houston’s release. If this were to occur, the SJRA’s release would be relatively small – probably in the range of 10 to 15 million gallons per day (approximately 1/20 of an inch per day or one and a half inches per month). If such releases are required, the SJRA would reimburse the GRP program for the appropriate amount of reservation fees that were paid for the SJRA’s share of the water in Lake Conroe.

In terms of impact to the level of Lake Conroe, the estimated release of up to half an inch per day would equate to three or four inches per week. During the hot summer months, this is approximately equal to the amount of water that evaporates from the reservoir. Lakefront property owners with boat slips should monitor water levels and take appropriate action as needed to trailer their boats or store them in marinas until normal rainfall patterns return and lake levels begin to rise.

For additional information, please visit the SJRA’s website at www.sjra.net. To receive updates via the internet or email, you can link to our Facebook page from our website or register your email address by signing up using the field in the lower right corner of our home page.}

Search for water must continue

Even with a negotiated contract between the city of Conroe and the San Jacinto River Authority that secures Conroe’s access to water in Lake Conroe for up to 80 years, city officials told The Courier recently that the search for future water resources must continue.

For that reason, we welcome the decision of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District to give large volume groundwater users the option of looking for water source alternatives to Lake Conroe surface water.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District recently approved changes to its district rules that give large volume groundwater users, those groups that pump at least 10 million gallons annually, the opportunity to look for alternative water sources in place of the multi-billion dollar surface-water project proposed by the San Jacinto River Authority.

As a result, representatives from several of the municipal utility districts located around Lake Conroe are looking at their options, particularly the potential for obtaining and treating brackish water. MUD No. 18, the water provider for Bentwater, already has advertised for a contractor to drill a test well to determine if there’s enough brackish groundwater underneath the Gulf Coast Aquifer to make a project viable. Brackish groundwater is located at greater depths than water from the aquifer and must be treated using reverse osmosis, all of which adds to the costs of the water as an alternative source.

Still, some believe brackish water could become an affordable alternative to tying into a surface water treatment and distribution system utilizing Lake Conroe surface water.

The negotiated agreements which now tie Conroe and The Woodlands to Lake Conroe’s surface water were an important step to ensuring this county has the water it needs for the future.

But the test well that MUD No. 18 plans to drill could open a door for other possibilities for water in the future. Whether brackish water is a viable option is a worthwhile question, and as Montgomery County looks to its future water needs, it’s worth answering.