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Water 2011 – A Lesson Learned

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In the spring of 1985, the City of Highland Village was struggling with many of the same issues that North Texas Cities are struggling with today: Where can we find water.  I was not a resident of Highland Village during the struggles of the eighties, but I did reside in Lewisville and could see the opportunities that were on the horizon for southern Denton County.

As today’s Mayor, I have the opportunity to reflect through the City archives and old news stories featuring the struggles that faced my predecessors – trying to resolve a basic fundamental need to provide for the growth and development of Highland Village, but also for the current residents at that time, just the basic need to have a reliable water source. I have to admire the legislative efforts and the leadership role of each of the cities involved in establishing the policy direction for the basic essential need of water and the desire to meet their ultimate goal of providing for the great good of everyone. I would call it, “Good Local Government”.  

One of our greatest achievements in regionalism for North Texas came out of the late eighties and I’m proud of the fact that past mayors and councilmembers took a leadership role in establishing the Upper Trinity Regional Water District. Highland Village has benefited tremendously as an active participant in the District.  Past Mayor Austin Adams and our current Board representative Rich Lubke have both served as President of the UTRWD.  The City of Highland Village has participated in every initiated program at one time and has benefited from the services provided by the UTRWD.  Our annual water take from the UTRWD produces the District’s highest yield and usage report; we use over 90% of the water we subscribe to.  Our current and past forethought to manage our water distribution system, by base loading from the UTRWD and managing our summer time peaks with our ground water wells, has been a very successful operational endeavor by the city.

As we look to the future, this last summer should have reminded all of us, not only in North Texas but in the entire state, our water resources are still fragile. Conservation should be a priority and we need to understand and educate everyone on their watering habits and water usage.

This last year the City of Highland Village City Council approved and initiated the installation of a fixed network automatic water meter reading system that will allow our residents to see real time water usage this summer to understand how much water is being used by our sprinkler systems.  Our residents will be able to use a web based portal through the city web page and see their actual water usage.  The city’s no watering on Monday and Fridays works during the enacted Phase II Drought Contingency Plan, but as individual residents, we need to volunteer and do more.  Only watering twice a week adequately waters our lawns where the moisture goes deep to the plant’s roots and does so much more than watering 4 to 5 times a week. 

Consider Bermuda grass over St. Augustine grass – Bermuda can go dormant during long periods of hot dry weather. 

But what is the future of our water needs?  In June 1997, Governor George W. Bush signed into law Senate Bill 1, the only comprehensive study in the State of Texas to review the impacts of the potential growth demands on water.   This legislation was enacted by the 75th Texas Legislature. As we all know, Texas population is expected to increase from its current level of about 24 million people to slightly more than 46 million people by the year 2060. The 2011 Regional Water Plans have been completed and have been submitted to The State of Texas Water Development Board, and it identifies a 50-year long range water plan that was required by Senate Bill 1.

So what does this have to do with Highland Village?  Currently the city is also looking at the future water consumption needs; we have just contracted with an outside firm to work with city staff to determine our final build out number in population for our water demand.  Do we need to increase our subscription amount with the UTRWD or drill another well?  We are also involved in the North Texas Ground Water Authority – an entity created by legislation to oversee and ensure the longevity of our aquifers.  But the UTRWD is our stakeholder – the planning entity that has been charged with identifying a 50 year supply plan under Senate Bill 1 for the service area of the UTRWD, under the 2011 Regional Water Plan, Region C. 

The UTRWD is currently serving 25 communities and 4 special water districts; currently the raw water supply outlook is estimated to be 20 to 25 years.  UTRWD raw water sources of Lake Lewisville and Ray Roberts were impacted this last summer and we all felt a sense of uneasiness as the lake levels decreased. Their third raw water source is Lake Chapman but that is shared with another water district that serves all of Collin County, which was stressed to provide the raw water for both districts. As identified and approved in the Region C Plan, it is my opinion that we need to move forward with the proposed Lake Ralph Hall, located in Fannin County. 

It’s a proven fact that government’s job is to provide for the basic essential needs of our society and water is definitely a hierarchy need.  The City of Dallas has provided the template of success for raw water supplies; yes Lake Ralph Hall will be expensive.  The Region C Plan shows the cost for this lake at $286 million dollars, but I would challenge the leadership of North Texas to find away to secure the needed permits for this project. Leadership is about moving forward for the greater good, not to challenge one’s idealism or question the integrity of the UTRWD.  The UTRWD has demonstrated their ability to provide a sound and quality product that stand the test of time.

The fact is North Texas is blessed for growth and prosperity for years to come, let’s not be so self centered and cost us all a lost opportunity for raw water security for our future generations.  So let’s practice some “Good Local Government”, for the greater good!

 

Scott R. McDearmont, MD is the Mayor of Highland Village, TX.

 

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