With each issue, Trib+Water brings you an interview with experts on water-related issues. Here is this week's subject:
Tom Gooch is a vice president of the consulting engineering firm Freese and Nichols in Fort Worth. He leads the firm’s water resource planning group and heads the firm’s efforts in water supply planning, water availability modeling, water rights analysis and permitting, reservoir system operation studies, water conservation planning and water and wastewater rate studies. He is a licensed professional engineer in Texas and four other states and is active in the Texas Water Conservation Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and other professional and civic organizations.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Water: What is your role in developing Dallas’ regional water plan?
Tom Gooch: That’s really two different questions because Dallas is developing a long-range water supply plan of its own. The city of Dallas is doing so, and I have no role in that. That’s being done by other consultants. The question may be intended to address the Region C water plan, which addresses the needs of 16 counties in North Texas, including Dallas County and Tarrant County. I’m the lead consultant on that planning effort.
Trib+Water: You’re right, I think we’re talking about the Region C plan. What is your role with respect to deciding what numbers and what projects should be in the plan?
Gooch: In terms of numbers, as the lead consultant, I lead the team that develops the cost estimates and yield estimates and information about potential demand and projects that might meet those demands. In terms of decisions on what projects should be in the plan, that’s made by the regional water-planning group, which is a group of people that live in the region initially appointed by the water development board, and that are in charge of running the planning process with technical input from their consultants.
Trib+Water: What role does Freese and Nichols have in prioritizing the projects in the Region C plan?
Gooch: In terms of prioritizing that’s being done now for the Texas Water Development Board for project financing, Freese and Nichols took a prescribed set of questions and ratings for all the projects and figured out what the answer to each of those questions for each of the projects was and came up with some preliminary ratings. And then we had a subcommittee for the regional water-planning group. And we took that to them and asked them for input on how they interpreted some of the questions that were unclear to us and reviewed the process with them.
In the broader sense of prioritizing, how do you figure out what projects are going to be done when? Freese and Nichols’ role would be as a consultant to gather information on the projects and on the need and to work with the water suppliers about how they want to approach meeting their need.
Trib+Water: Talking specifically about the region, what are you seeing as the biggest challenges to developing a regional approach there?
Gooch: The North Texas region — which is what Region C covers — is a very rapidly growing area, and it’s an area where the local water sources are largely developed. So if you develop additional water supplies, you can look at conservation, which is a major part of the plan. You look at reuse, which is a major part of the plan. And then you have to look outside of the immediate region to develop new supplies because new supplies within the region are already developed.
Trib+Water: With what you do for a living, has your role in all of this become more important post passage of Prop 6 and also with the drought being so much in the public eye?
Gooch: I feel like the Prop 6 probably hasn’t made a whole lot of difference for my role. … I think it’s good to have public participation in funding projects, but in terms of what I do, I’m doing planning kind of ahead of the funding. And I think that the ongoing drought in many parts of Texas has really made a difference in how urgent the need for additional water supply is in many parts of Texas.
Trib+Water: If there’s one thing you wish the general public understood better about the challenges facing Texas with water, what would it be?
Gooch: I think that the general public is kind of removed from the degree of challenge there is in developing new water supplies in the current regulatory climate and how difficult that is and how far ahead people have to look. A better appreciation of that might be helpful.