Buda locks in future water with deal

By Cyndy Slovak-Barton

Thanks to an agreement with the cities of Kyle and San Marcos for use of their excess water, Buda may have partially solved some of its own water woes. 

But questions over how much Buda will have to pay for use of the excess water still remains.  

“Those are obstacles we can overcome, but they will take time,” Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said. “But all parties agree to move forward with this project.” 

The agreement, which has been months in the making, included Buda, Kyle and San Marcos city officials, along with the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA) and the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA).

The sharing plan allows Buda, beginning in January 2016, the rights to one million gallons of water per day. 

That amount, totaling 1,128 acre-feet of water per year, is enough to provide water for more than 4,000 additional homes in Buda. 

Under the agreement, Kyle and San Marcos each agree to commit 560 acre-feet per year of their raw water supply to Buda. In addition, Kyle agrees to commit and allow Buda to use 1.0 million gallons per day of Kyle’s contracted water supply.

This particular agreement recently passed by the Kyle City Council benefits Buda, Kyle and San Marcos. In addition, it provides Buda water during the interim period of the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency’s Carrizo-Wilcox project, which is projected to go online by 2023. 

The first part of the agreement, which HCPUA Executive Director Graham Moore helped negotiate, allows for the use of GBRA existing facilities and infrastructure for the delivery of water. The second part of the agreement, still under negotiation, will come up with a payment plan for the cost of the water. Moore said a consultant who specializes in rate work will put together a formula to make sure each city is paying for its water and that its customers are not subsidizing the water consumption of the other town.

Kyle and San Marcos signed a contract early on with GBRA to use its delivery system, and has been paying for use of GBRA’s existing facilities – pipelines and storage tanks. Until Kyle and San Marcos need all of this water, they have an excess to sell to Buda. 

Because of the complicated nature of the agreement – involving the GBRA, Kyle and San Marcos – all entities had to sign a letter agreement allowing Kyle and San Marcos to make available to Buda their excess water on a temporary basis via GBRA’s existing infrastructure. 

The move provides relief for Buda, as its recent water scramble comes to a partial end. Prior to this contract, the city had contracted to Electro Purification (EP), a Houston-based private water supplier, to purchase 1 million gallons of water when Buda forecast that it needed water as early as 2017. 

EP had contracted to pump the water from the Cow Creek Formation of the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County. But protests sprang up in the spring over EP’s wells, which sat in a “white zone,” an area without any oversight.

State Rep. Jason Isaac and local residents came together against the wells, legislation was passed and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) was put in charge of the “white zone” area. 

John Dupnik, General Manager of the BSEACD, said EP has publicly stated it would apply for a temporary permit for its wells in the district’s expanded boundaries. Dupnik said EP has not yet submitted a permit. 

Ruge said Buda is still a contracted customer of EP, but that the company has until Oct. 20 to prove the quantity and quality of their water. 

Despite the contract’s complicated nature, all entities feel it is a workable solution to get Buda the water it needs. In addition, it allows Kyle and San Marcos to collect money for their reserved capacity, of which they are making payments to GBRA.

“This agreement will get Buda access to water it needs,” Moore said. “It gives them a level of comfort that they have access to this water.” 

The key to the entire agreement is that neither city feels like it is subsidizing the water use of the other’s residents.

Everyone benefits, Moore said. Buda gets water and Kyle and San Marcos get some revenue off water that they’ve been paying for and not using.

What the cost of the future water will be is still being negotiated. But, with the cost of water rising all the time, all parties involved seemed happy to take the step toward assured water rather than risk running out in the near future.

 

How Kyle and San Marcos got their excess water

The story of Kyle’s and San Marcos’ excess water goes back many years – to the late 1990s – when a consortium of interested partners got together to discuss long-term water needs. A search for water was underway by various entities.

In 2004, Kyle, County Line Water Supply Corporation, San Marcos, Lockhart and Wimberley did a study together and found the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, to the east of Hays County, had a large quantity of water which was of good quality.

The HCPUA was founded in January 2007 to help with the leasing of more than 17,000 acres above the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer for rights to the water. At that time of HCPUA’s founding, Lockhart stepped out of the picture and former Buda Mayor John Trube pushed his city to step up to take Lockhart’s place in the organization.

The HCPUA’s main goal is to provide good, clean water for its fast-growing members. That includes Kyle, San Marcos, Buda – and the Canyon Regional Water Authority, which represents several water supply corporations bringing water to local homes throughout Hays and Caldwell counties.

But HCPUA, while providing sufficient water to its participants, is trying to find a steady supply of water until the delivery system from the Carrizo-Wilcox is complete in the early 2020s, possibly by 2023. The undertaking is large; capital costs are expected to be around $200 million and it should give the region a 50-year supply of good water.

Until then, Kyle and San Marcos signed a contract early on with the GBRA to use its delivery system, and has been paying for use of GBRA’s existing facilities – pipelines and storage tanks. Until Kyle and San Marcos need all of this water, they have an excess to sell to Buda.

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