July 17, 2008

Amarillo, Texas, is on Track to Pump Other Wells

By Kevin Welch, Amarillo Globe-News, Texas

Jul. 16--The water outlook for Amarillo may be tight next summer, but it won't last forever.

"Lake Meredith will be an afterthought," City Manager Alan Taylor said during a meeting with city commissioners Tuesday.

The city typically gets 60 percent of its water from the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority's Lake Meredith and the Roberts County well field. The rest of the water comes from city-owned well fields in Carson and Randall counties.

"What you'll see next year is that will reverse," Assistant City Manager Jarrett Atkinson said.

The water authority is considering cutting supplies to its 11-member cities from 80,000 acre-feet to 60,000 acre-feet per year.

An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.

Record-low lake levels and the resulting pumping pressure on the authority's well field to maintain supplies are cutting into the availability of water. The authority will decide on the cut in October.

Recent heavy rains have raised the lake level about 9 inches, but it remains low with no guarantee it will fill soon.

The city is in the process of developing more supply that will help it make up for the loss of water from the authority.

It will take bids to replace seven wells and add three wells in the Southwest Well Field in Randall County in September. Also, it is completing new wells in the same area that will tap the Santa Rosa Aquifer instead of the Ogallala, from which most wells pump.

The wells in its Carson County field also will help with more production. "Typically it's been operated at 90 percent," Atkinson said. "We're asking staff to shoot for 95 to 97 percent."

Amarillo officials are in the planning stages for a new well field in northeast Potter County. Until it can be completed, the city may need to use another resource to have enough water through days of peak demand next year. Amarillo has a 500-million-gallon reservoir near its Osage water plant that can be pumped when the other resources are not enough.

The Potter well field should begin pumping in late summer 2010. Its initial capacity will be 20 million gallons per day, or about one quarter of the city's peak use. Drillers completed the first prototype well there last week and will complete two more to provide designers information about the water underground. The city must then drill the production wells and build 18 miles of 42-inch transmission pipe.

"We're on about the fastest fast track you can be on," Taylor said.

From now until the completion of new wells in Potter County, stepped-up production and conservation can help maintain Amarillo's water supply.

"It doesn't appear we're in a water-rationing situation," Assistant City Manager Jarrett Atkinson said. "Responsibility is what we need."

City commissioners agreed the public can help.

"We're foolish if we don't encourage conservation," Commissioner Jim Simms said.

The city soon will begin hanging notices on the doorknobs of homes and businesses seen as wasting water. City workers will be watching, and the public will be able to report waste.

For suggestions on how to conserve, go to www.ci.amarillo.tx.us and click on the Every Drop Counts logo.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Amarillo Globe-News, Texas

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