Georgetown gets its water from the Edwards Aquifer on the east side of town, and from Lake Georgetown and Lake Stillhouse Hollow everywhere else. A recent Texas Monthly article called attention to depletion of the Trinity aquifer in Bell and northwest Williamson counties. However, the Edwards aquifer is much more porous, which makes its recharge much more efficient compared to the Trinity. So Georgetown is not at immediate risk from water shortages, but some attention is needed.
Lake Georgetown gets its water from the San Gabriel River and Lake Stillhouse gets water from the Lampasas River. There may be a small part of our service area that extends into Bell County and is dependent on wells into the Trinity, but I am not aware of them.
With our growth and current water use patterns, Georgetown has enough raw water to last until 2053. If we incorporate water conservation programs that can actually reduce our water use patterns, we get another 5 years or so, to about 2058.
We have gotten behind the curve over the last 5 years or so, and have not kept up with the required distribution system expansion and maintenance. It looks like man power and funding was redirected to cover other projects that City leaders and GUS management decided were more important.
An example is taking on Chisholm Trail. We were told that we didn’t have to pay for Chisholm (or the Western District, as it is now called,) and it was called a win-win situation. But what was also handed over was $14 million in Chisholm debt and 460 miles of mostly substandard, failing or undersized pipeline. Additionally, because of the distance between water meters and the fact that most accounts
do not have Georgetown electric service, they cannot be fully incorporated into Georgetown’s automatic (AMI) meter reading system. So western district meters are read with a drive-by system. This makes it very hard to monitor, do any kind of in-depth analysis of water usage patterns, or subscribe to specific water conservation practices.
Water treatment capacity is a completely different issue, as is water storage. As long as the weather doesn’t get too hot or too dry, we are okay. We have enough treatment capacity for this year. The City has been very lucky over the last 3 or 4 years, as summers have been relatively mild for this area. But this trend is unlikely to continue.
Georgetown can treat 44.1 mgd (million gallons daily.) We are currently just under the break-even point with our water usage. With estimated growth, we will pass the 44.1 mgd sometime next year. But if we get exceptionally hot weather in the near future, all bets are off, and we will be purchasing treated water from Round Rock.
The City’s current solution is to reduce the City’s normal watering schedule to two days a week for everyone. This is much easier and faster than actually encouraging water conservation. The problem I see is that since their goals are based on prioritizing development, instead of citizens, the citizens will be losing their landscaping. All of Georgetown’s available water conservation programs are good, but the city is not actively promoting and trying to change the water use culture. Like the water department says, the goal is MARKETING and conservation. It is all about the numbers, not the people. The City needs to worry more about the citizens and less about statistics and development.