Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for visiting the Frequently Asked Questions page for the Surface Water Supply Project!

If you do not find the answer to your specific question or concern here, please contact the Surface Water Supply Project Outreach Team at 1-844-638-SWSP (7977), or through the Contact Us portal on this project website.

1. What is the Surface Water Supply Project?

To meet the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District (HGSD) and Fort Bend Subsidence District (FBSD) regulations, the West Harris County Regional Water Authority (WHCRWA) has partnered with the North Fort Bend Water Authority (NFBWA) to deliver the Surface Water Supply Project (SWSP).

The SWSP will supply surface water from Lake Houston by way of the City of Houston’s Northeast Water Purification Plant, through approximately 39 miles of an 8-foot-diameter pipeline and two large pump stations.

The SWSP starts at the City of Houston’s Northeast Water Purification Plant and extends to the west through north Houston to west Harris County.

2. Why is the Surface Water Supply Project being implemented?

From 1906 to 2000, up to seven feet of subsidence, or sinking of the land surface, has been measured in northwest Harris County (Note: graphic below). The HGSD, a special purpose district formed by the Texas Legislature in 1975 for the purpose of preventing land subsidence, and the FBSD, formed by the Texas Legislature in 1989, have enacted regulatory plans that require the WHCRWA and NFBWA to convert to 80 percent surface water by 2035. The Surface Water Supply Project is necessary to meet these conversion requirements.

3. What is land subsidence?

Land subsidence is sinking of the land surface. Pumping large amounts of groundwater causes the ground to settle, lowering the elevation of the land. Subsidence can cause damage to building foundations and public infrastructure.

4. What is the timeline for the Surface Water Supply Project?

The design phase began in 2016. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2018, and delivery of surface water to WHCRWA and NFBWA residents through this transmission line is scheduled to begin in late 2021.

5. What is the construction timeline for the Surface Water Supply Project in my area?

Although the construction phase of the SWSP is estimated to occur from 2018 to 2021, no specific area would be impacted for the entire three-year period. The WHCRWA will require its contractors to complete the project in segments. Construction activities in each segment are anticipated to last approximately six to nine months.

6. In how many segments will the Surface Water Supply Project waterline be constructed?

The project is currently in the design phase, and the WHCRWA is in the process of deciding how many construction contracts will be awarded. The number of construction contracts will determine the construction phasing for the transmission line, and the number of segments will be determined at that time.

7. What are the anticipated effects of the Surface Water Supply Project?

When construction starts in 2018, residents, business owners, and anyone traveling in the vicinity of the pipeline alignment may experience detours, access issues, and other construction activities associated with large-scale linear projects. In order to minimize these impacts, the majority of the pipeline will be installed within existing pipeline corridors. The public’s safety, ease of access, and well-marked detour information will be our priority throughout the life of the project. We are committed to communicating proactively and continuously with the public about this project.

The WHCRWA is working with the applicable agencies to coordinate construction and minimize impacts along the entire route. In addition to complying with all City of Houston ordinances regarding construction, including noise and air quality, the WHCRWA requires that its contractors go above and beyond to minimize disruption and implement best management practices. Roads are not planned to be closed during peak traffic times. Contractors will be required to follow dust suppression measures, including the use of water trucks and cleaning of streets. They will also be required, by contract, to maintain safe job sites, including providing temporary fencing and/or barricades. The WHCRWA will have full-time inspectors on the job.

Before construction, the contractors must assess the conditions of the roadways that will be impacted. After construction, the contractors will restore the roads to pre-construction conditions. Access to churches, schools, and businesses will be maintained throughout project construction. The contractors will coordinate with these entities to try to phase construction during a time that is least disruptive.

8. What will be done about noise from Surface Water Supply Project construction?

Construction will be conducted in compliance with state and local government noise level requirements, and the WHCRWA will require that contractors make every effort to avoid or minimize construction-related noise impacts through the use of proven best management practices, such as limited working hours and others.

9. How will the Surface Water Supply Project impact air quality? What will be done to protect the air quality in the project area?

Construction will be conducted in compliance with state and local government air quality requirements, and the WHCRWA will require that contractors minimize construction-related air quality impacts through the use of proven best management practices such as the use of dust suppression methods and others.

10. How will you restrict access to the Surface Water Supply Project areas?

Contractors will be required, by contract, to maintain safe and secure job sites, including providing temporary construction fencing and/or barricades and securing construction equipment and materials when not in use.

In areas where contractors are open-cutting the alignment, construction crews are required to “cover as they go,” meaning they will be required to backfill during work hours as they move along the alignment. It is not anticipated that large areas will be left open for extended periods of time.

In areas where tunneling is required, the tunnels have to remain open, however construction fencing will restrict access to the area, and construction plates will be in place and secured to prevent access to the tunnels themselves when they are not in use.

11. Will I be able to access my home/church/child’s school/home/etc. during construction?

Access to homes, churches, schools, and businesses will be maintained throughout construction of the SWSP.

12. Will the Surface Water Supply Project increase flooding?

No, the SWSP will not increase flooding. Prior to construction, contractors will be required to conduct land surveys, and after construction, land surface will be restored to pre-construction elevations.

13. What will be done to prevent crime associated with the Surface Water Supply Project?

Contractors working on the SWSP will be easily identified by neon vests displaying the project logo. If existing fences must be removed during construction, temporary fences will be erected to maintain access control to property. Construction equipment and materials will be secured when not in use.

14. Will the Surface Water Supply Project’s construction leave community roads in poor condition?

No, the SWSP will not negatively impact roadway conditions in the proximity of the project. Before construction, the contractors will assess the conditions of the existing roadways, and contractors will be required to restore impacted roadways to pre-construction conditions following transmission line construction.

15. Are you coordinating with other agencies to coordinate the efficient construction of the project?

The WHCRWA is working with Harris County, the City of Houston, and all applicable regulatory agencies to coordinate construction and minimize impacts along the entire route.

16. What opportunities are there for Minority, Women, and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) to participate in the Surface Water Supply Project? What measures are being taken to involve these types of businesses in the contracting and implementation of the SWSP?

As a result of ongoing community outreach and the feedback received, the SWSP team has identified a strong desire for inclusion of local minority-owned and small businesses in the contracting and implementation of the SWSP. In response to this community feedback, the WHCRWA is undertaking a four-step approach to encourage diversity in contracting and implementation of the SWSP by:

  • Utilizing a database of certified local minority companies that can be accessed by prime contractors for inclusion in bidding
  • Holding workshops to facilitate Minority, Women, and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification
  • Creating a resource event where potential prime contractors on the SWSP can meet potential minority subcontractors
  • Tracking MWSBE and DBE participation on the SWSP on an annual basis

In accordance with this approach, the West Harris County Regional Water Authority partnered with the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity to conduct four MWSBE and DBE Pre-certification Workshops in neighborhoods near the Surface Water Supply Project alignment in March 2017. The workshops were held at Melrose Community Center on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, Tidwell Community Center on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, Fry Road Municipal Utility District Administration Building on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, and Acres Homes Multi-Service Center on Thursday, March 30, 2017. All workshops were held from 12 to 2 p.m., and lunch was provided from local small businesses. A summary of these workshops is available here.

For those who are interested in becoming MWSBE or DBE certified by the City of Houston, the Office of Business Opportunity holds MWSBE and DBE Pre-Certification Workshops every Thursday at 2 p.m. in their offices located at 611 Walker St, 7th Floor Houston, Texas 77002. More information about these workshops can be found by following this link. The City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity also hosts videos about the certification process on their homepage.

Contracting opportunities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Welding services
  • Electrical services
  • Pipefitting services
  • Construction flagging services
  • Dust abatement services
  • Carpentry services
  • Surveying services
  • Landscaping services
  • Trucking services
  • Traffic control services
  • Stormwater protection services
  • Security Services
  • And many others

The WHCRWA encourages subcontractors interested in submitting bids to the Surface Water Supply Project’s future prime contractors to utilize or be pre-certified as MWSBE or DBE contractors through the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity.

17. Who is paying for the Surface Water Supply Project? How is this project being funded?

This project is funded through bonds issued by the WHCRWA and the NFBWA. A significant portion of these bonds will be sold to the Texas Water Development Board through a statewide program specifically for financing water supply projects.

The total project costs are estimated to be $680 million, and this project is funded solely by the water authorities. The WHCRWA’s and NFBWA’s interest payments and repayment of principal on the bonds to the Texas Water Development Board will be supported by each authority’s sale of surface water to their customers and pumpage fees charged on well water pumped within each authority. Local utility districts buy their surface water from the water authorities and/or pay pumpage fees on well water pumped within the authorities’ boundaries.

18. How was the alignment chosen for the Surface Water Supply Project?

The WHCRWA negotiated with the City of Houston to purchase additional surface water. The agreement between the City and the WHCRWA stipulates that the water must originate at the City of Houston Northeast Water Purification Plant, thereby excluding other regional surface water sources. To deliver the water from the required source, the WHCRWA took great care to choose a route that considers the residents, businesses, and existing infrastructure. The WHCRWA spent years researching and refining the route and worked with elected officials to choose the most cost-effective alignment with the least impacts to the community as a whole.

To minimize community impacts, the majority of the pipeline will be installed within an existing pipeline corridor purchased several years ago. This pipeline corridor, where accessible, has been maintained by the WHCRWA since its purchase.

19. How would the Surface Water Supply Project impact Lake Houston’s water levels?

The WHCRWA is paying for a share of the Coastal Water Authority’s Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project, which will maintain the water level at Lake Houston by transferring water from the Trinity River. The purpose of the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project (LBITP) is to provide additional surface water supplies to end users that utilize water from Lake Houston. Additional surface water supplies will be transferred from the Trinity River to Lake Houston via the LBITP to meet the increased demand for surface water. For more information about this project, visit the Coastal Water Authority’s page about the project.

20. Would the Surface Water Supply Project provide any benefits to residents and businesses along the waterline alignment that are not located within the WHCRWA or NFBWA boundaries?

Because the WHCRWA is buying the water from the City of Houston, the WHCRWA is paying into the City of Houston’s overall water program as a major customer. Specific elements of the City’s program include the Northeast Water Purification Plant Expansion and the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project, which will maintain the water level at Lake Houston by transferring water from the Trinity River. The City and the WHCRWA’s customers will benefit from the shared operational efficiencies and cost savings achieved through this collaboration. Through this collaboration, these projects will be delivered faster and benefits will be realized sooner.

21. Will the Surface Water Supply Project impact water quality? Will consumers located in West Harris County receive different water than the City of Houston?

This project will supply to west Harris County and north Fort Bend County residents the same water supply received by the City of Houston residents. The water supply will meet Texas Commission on Environmental Quality water quality requirements, and blending studies will be conducted to monitor water quality.

22. What size is the easement being acquired for Surface Water Supply Project construction?

The size of the easement being acquired for construction varies along the route. Where possible, fifty feet of easement is being acquired. If you are impacted by the SWSP, it is likely that you have already been directly contacted by a member of the SWSP Right-of-Way Acquisition team. If you are concerned that your property may be impacted, please contact us at
1-844-638-SWSP (7977), by emailing through the Contact Us portal on this project website.

23. Is the Surface Water Supply Project pipeline safe?

Yes, the WHCRWA is implementing safety measures for the safety of the SWSP pipeline. The waterline will be constructed out of high-quality steel that will be cathodically protected to guard against corrosion. Extra precautions will be taken at road, railway, and bayou crossings. The pipeline will be constructed with a minimum of eight feet of cover and pipes will be pressure tested afterward. Regular noninvasive monitoring and safety inspections will be conducted.

24. What would happen if the West Harris County Regional Water Authority and the North Fort Bend Water Authority did not comply with the subsidence districts’ groundwater reduction plans?

As of 2017, the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District’s (HGSD) disincentive fee for noncompliance with their regulatory plan is $8.46 per thousand gallons. A household in the HGSD that uses about 8k to 10k gallons per month of water would be charged roughly $67 to $85 more per month at the 2017 noncompliance fee rate for the HGSD. The Fort Bend Subsidence District’s (FBSD) disincentive fee for noncompliance with their regulatory plan is $6.50 per thousand gallons. A household in the FBSD that uses about 8k to 10k gallons per month of water would be charged roughly $52 to $65 more per month at the 2017 noncompliance fee rate for the FBSD.

25. How are contracts for construction of the Surface Water Supply Project being awarded?

The project is currently in the design phase. The WHCRWA is currently deciding how to divide the waterline into segments, and the number of segments will inform the number of prime contracts to be awarded. The prime contractor selection process will not begin until these decisions have been made. The WHCRWA is also currently deciding the method by which they will accept bids. The WHCRWA is deciding between competitive sealed proposals and regular competitive bids with minimum qualifications.

26. What is the West Harris County Regional Water Authority?

Established in 2001 by the 77th Texas Legislature, the WHCRWA supplies surface water to the western region of Harris County. The Authority has several objectives:

  • To acquire and provide a reliable supply of surface water;
  • To conserve, preserve, protect, and recharge groundwater resources;
  • To facilitate compliance with subsidence district requirements; and
  • To encourage water conservation

27. Is my property located within the Surface Water Supply Project alignment?

If you have questions about individual properties, please contact the Project Team at our toll-free hotline at 1-844-638-SWSP (7977), by emailing us through the Contact Us portal on the project website.

28. Who do I contact if I have a future question about the Surface Water Supply Project?

More information about the SWSP is available by calling our toll-free hotline at
1-844-638-SWSP (7977), by emailing us through the Contact Us portal on the project website

Disclaimer: The information contained herein speaks only as of the date indicated, and the information may be changed by the WHCRWA from time to time.

CONTACT INFORMATION

If you have questions, concerns, or feedback related to the Surface Water Supply Project, please contact the Surface Water Supply Project team by calling 1-844-638-SWSP (7977), or emailing info@surfacewatersupplyproject.com.

ABOUT THE WHCRWA

The WHCRWA was established in 2001 to supply surface water to the western region of Harris County. The WHCRWA service area includes approximately 120 municipal water providers within the boundaries of the WHCRWA and seven located outside of the WHCRWA boundaries. As mandated by the Texas legislature, the WHCRWA has several objectives:
  • To acquire and provide a reliable supply of surface water
  • To conserve, preserve, protect, and recharge groundwater resources
  • To facilitate compliance with subsidence district requirements
  • To encourage water conservation

ABOUT THE NFBWA

The NFBWA was established in 2005 to supply surface water to the northern region of Fort Bend County. The NFBWA service area includes approximately 69 utility districts and two cities, Fulshear and Arcola. Although this project is directly sponsored by the WHCRWA, the NFBWA is funding approximately 45 percent of the total cost and is a beneficiary of the surface water to be provided by the Surface Water Supply Project.

DISCLAIMER

The content contained in this website is provided by West Harris County Regional Water Authority (The "Authority") as a service to you. This website and the information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as information for the purposes of securities disclosure about the authority or its financial condition. Persons should not rely upon this information when considering whether to buy, sell or hold bonds issued by the Authority. All information contained herein speaks only as of the date indicated. The Authority assumes no duty to update any information contained in this website at any time.