Since August, city officials in Groesbeck have known that if they couldn't stop the Navasota River, the community's sole water, from drying up, the town would be without water by Thanksgiving. After a solution devised last week failed, the city now hopes to scramble to build a new pipeline before the water runs out.
High summer temperatures and the statewide drought have caused the Navasota River to evaporate faster than it can be replenished. Last week, the city attempted to solve the problem by purchasing and pumping water from a nearby rock quarry into Jack’s Creek, which feeds into the Navasota, and ultimately, into the city's water treatment plant at the end of Fort Parker Lake. The quarry water managed to get down Jack’s Creek, but the effort was abandoned after the dry and thirsty bed of Fort Parker Lake absorbed most of the quarry water before it made it to the treatment plant.
Yesterday, the Groesbeck city council approved a plan to build a 3.3 mile pipeline from a more water-abundant upper region of the Navasota River to Groesbeck’s water treatment plant. But building the three-mile pipeline will take time —about eight days — and will be costly. The city will continue sending water from the rock quarry through Jack's Creek and into the river to avoid further depleting the Navasota, but the upper region from which Groesbeck will pump is fuller than the other bodies of water involved, especially Fort Parker Lake. If all goes according to plan, Groesbeck will pay Godwin Pumps $80,000 to build the pipeline and $35,600 per month in rent, Groesbeck Mayor Jackie Levingston said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the plan, but Groesbeck is still waiting on the approval of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. A department representative is scheduled to visit Groesbeck tomorrow morning, before construction of the pipeline begins.
"We’ve done a lot of pre-clearance and don’t foresee anything going wrong with the plan,” Levingston said. But if the plan doesn’t work, Groesbeck will resort to building a different pipeline from the quarry to the treatment plant, which is projected to take three weeks, though the city already has the necessary clearances for this option.
If Groesbeck runs out of water before that second pipeline option is completed, it will be forced to truck water in from the rock quarry. Since water consumption in Groesbeck has dropped, a result of its dire straits, Levingston hopes the city will be able to make the current supply last longer than the initial Thanksgiving projection, especially if the second, three-week pipeline project is required.
“We’ve got so many people involved with this process that things change every hour. People are coming together in such a wonderful way,” said City Administrator Martha Stanton. "That’s positive, and we need something positive.”
Groesbeck is one of a small number of Texas communities on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s “high priority” water list, which identifies cities and towns that could run out of water within 180 days if the drought persists and the water infrastructure remains as it is. The Austin suburbs Leander and Cedar Park were previously on that list, but were removed when officials determined they'd been included erroneously.
Even if everything works and Groesbeck is able to pump water from the upper Navasota in just over a week, that solution is a short term fix, which engineers believe will only last four months, Levingston said. On Nov. 8, the city council approved a contract to hire an engineer from R.W. Harden who will look for water wells, which will offer a more permanent solution to the imminent vulnerability of Groesbeck’s single-source surface water system.
In an article published in the Groesbeck Journal earlier today, Keith Tilley, Groesbeck director of public works, wrote that he is confident the city will find a solution before the clock runs out.
“Make no mistake, the City of Groesbeck will find a solution to this crisis no matter what it takes," he said. "We may never experience another drought like this in our lifetime, but we have to be ready and assume it will. There are several other options that are not mentioned here today, but as far as I am concerned, running out of water is not on the list.”