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Growing Marble Falls may ask LCRA for more water to store for future

Marble Falls water treatment plant

The city of Marble Falls is considering purchasing an additional 4,000 acre-feet of water to add to its reserves. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Marble Falls officials said the city needs more water from the Lower Colorado River Authority and might ask for an additional 4,000 acre-feet on its firm water contract. The water would be put in the city’s reserves to prepare for anticipated growth.

“As you all know, we’re looking at different impacts of growth in the future,” City Manager Mike Hodge told the Marble Falls City Council during its regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Hodge arrived at the 4,000-acre-feet figure after analyzing the maximum capacity of the city’s existing water treatment plant. According to staff figures, the city needs a total 7,000 acre-feet of water. Its current firm water contract with the LCRA is for 3,000 acre-feet. 

Hodge said he discussed the issue with LCRA Vice President of Water John Hofmann about four months ago and that a request for more water needs to happen soon.

“(Hofmann) indicated there’s capacity available to firm water customers, but it’s going to be going quick,” Hodge said.

The city’s growth projections confirm the need for more water.

“With a slow growth rate of 4 percent, (water) runs out in 2036,” Hodge said. “At 12 percent, it’s 2026.”

Extreme drought conditions, as defined by the National Weather Service, have added to the city’s water woes. Marble Falls is implementing mandatory Stage 3 water restrictions on Thursday, Aug. 3. Stage 3 restrictions seek to cut water usage by all city customers by 20 percent. 

The purchase cost of the additional acre-feet of water depends on it would be used.

“To storage it, it’s $77.50 per acre-foot,” Assistant City Manager Russell Sander said. “It’s $155 if we use it.”

Mayor Dave Rhodes further explained the process to attendees of the council meeting.

“For those of you who are unfamiliar, we’re basically buying reserves,” he said. “We pay more for it if we start to draw it. We can sell it and discontinue it at any time. Once we put it in our system, we own it.”

City officials have already incorporated the potential purchase into next year’s utility budget to show councilors the projected cost of adding water to its contract with the LCRA.

“It goes from roughly $228,000 to right around $500,000,” Hodge said.

The council will wait until a future meeting to consider approving an application for more water drawn up by city staff.

“We’ll bring it back to y’all for your approval,” Hodge said.

nathan@thepicayune.com