When it rains, it pours

By Kim Hilsenbeck

Buda leaders are again exploring water options – nearly all of which were not available a year ago when the city started looking for additional water.

But at Tuesday’s special called meeting, options flowed like a river.

Buda City Council heard from regional entities and a private well owner willing to sell water to the city.

Mayor Todd Ruge quipped, “Where were you a year ago?” during the presentation by Humberto Ramos of Canyon Regional Water Supply.

Ramos said the Green Valley water system is shopping for customers interested in a long-term lease for ready-to-use water.

After determining it could run short of water by 2017, Buda searched for water providers. With no takers from LCRA, GBRA and others, Buda went with a different choice.

The city signed an agreement with Electro Purification (EP), a private water firm that also signed on Goforth Special Utility District and developer Clark Wilson. EP drilled seven test wells near the Rolling Oaks subdivision in western Hays County.

Public backlash against EP and ultimately Buda by Driftwood and Wimberley residents was swift. An opposition group, Save Our Wells, quickly organized and began speaking out against the project. 

Save Our Wells also created a website and pumped out information that disputed nearly everything EP put forth. Emotions ran high. Ruge got death threats. Hays County Commissioner Will Conley publicly lambasted Ruge for the decision.

Earlier this summer, Buda backed off its deal with EP though it has not formally severed the contract. But the city still needs to augment its water supply.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the options ranged from purchasing water from providers to building a desalinization facility in the Edwards Aquifer.

In addition, council heard about projects such as aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), direct potable water and water from a conditional permit from a Buda resident.

Ruge seemed interested in an ASR project where a developer would have that system on the land. Since that developer is not a water expert, it would pay Buda to build the facility. 

According to Brian Lillibridge, water expert for the city, “Under that deal, Buda would receive special impact fees in addition to the normal impact fees for Buda to develop an ASR.”

He cautioned that those fees might not cover full-scale ASR development, however, there is some existing infrastructure.

Ruge asked staff who would own those water rights under that kind of deal.

“If we’re developing the water supply it would be the city’s water rights,” Lillibridge said.

“This is kind of the kind of project I think we all desire,” Ruge said. “You know, if you want to develop in Buda, bring your own water with you.”

Council also heard proposals on wastewater treatment plant construction and upgrades. With future growth projections, the city needs to either build a new plant or upgrade an existing one.

City Manager Kenneth Williams said the timing of any water or wastewater project is not entirely set at this point, but hopes to have something in place by the fall.

Which options are right for Buda?

“It’s too early to tell right now,” he said. “It’s got to fit the personality of the council.”

He said it’s like putting a puzzle together.

“We have a lot of considerations to take into account for the future of Buda,” he said. “We want to do what’s best for the citizens.”

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