With the bulk of the necessary construction nearly completed on the pipeline between the Ward County water well fields and the city of Odessa, officials with the Colorado River Municipal Water District say the new system could be ready for preliminary tests as early as late November.
According to CRMWD General Manager John Grant, approximately 85 percent of the construction of the pipeline has been completed, good news for the drought-stricken cities served by the local water district.
“Work on the Ward County pipeline has gone very well,” Grant said. “The main construction on it is approximately 85 percent completed. Also, work on the pump station is also moving along nicely. Right now, we're basically just waiting for equipment deliveries at the pump station. We expect to be able to begin running tests on the system as early as late November or early December, which puts us on track to have the pipeline ready to go to work in January.”
The pipeline will ultimately deliver well water gathered from the Ward County fields and pump it into the CRMWD system, which serves a number of West Texas cities, including Big Spring, Odessa and Snyder, as well as its customer cities, including Abilene, Grandfalls, Midland, Pyote, Robert Lee, San Angelo and Stanton.
In years past, the vast majority of the water used to serve the cities has come from the water district's three reservoirs. However, because of ongoing drought conditions, two of the lakes have already been taken offline and the third — O.H. Ivie Reservoir — is in danger of running dry by Mid 2013.
“Originally, we projected Ivie would no longer be a viable source this December,” Grant said. “However, because of the water conservation efforts and the reduced deliveries, we've been able to extend that projection to June 2013.”
According to CRMWD reports, Lake Thomas is approximately 0.73 percent full — with an estimated 1,461 acre-feet of water left in the lake — while Lake Spence is currently less than 0.19 percent full, with 1,004 acre-feet available. Lake Ivey is listed as approximately 12.31 percent full — with 68,238 acre-feet — and is currently the main source of water for the city of Big Spring and all other CRMWD cities.
Grant said recent rains in and around the Crossroads area have helped extend the live of the Ivie Reservoir, however, not in the way most would assume.
“We've had quite a bit of rain during the past several months, however, it's done very little to help replenish the levels in our reservoirs,” Grant said. “We just haven't gotten the needed rain in the area of our watersheds. However, we have still benefitted from the rain in the cities because it helps to drive down water consumption. So, the rains have certainly helped us, but they haven't helped to bring lake levels back up.”
And while work on the pipeline has gone fairly smoothly, Grant said the contractors are seeing their fair share of problems when it comes to housing and labor.
“The boom in the oilfield has really pulled a lot of the labor away from those contractors, so they have had problems finding skilled laborers,” Grant said. “The housing shortage caused by the boom has also been a problem fro them. Some of the contractors have gone as far as bringing in laborers from other states because of the shortage.”
While the pipeline — along with other ongoing CRMWD projects — will allow the water district to continue pumping to area cities, Grant said it still only offers a temporary solution.
“If we lose Ivie Reservoir as a source, we'll have to rely on the pipeline and water from the Big Spring reclamation plant,” Grant said. “Those sources together will allow us to deliver water that generally meets the winter usage levels of most cities. However, once we move into the summer months, it still won't be enough to provide the levels of water we delivered in years past, making water conservation just as necessary as it is right now. The only way we're going to get back to the way things were before deliveries were limited is if we get a substantial amount of rain in our reservoirs. Our other water sources simply aren't enough.”