Welcome to the website for the Surface Water Supply Project, which will provide surface water to the West Harris County Regional Water Authority and North Fort Bend Water Authority.

Please take a moment to watch the introductory video below to learn about the Surface Water Supply Project.

About the Surface Water Supply Project

The Greater Houston metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. From 2000 to 2030, our metropolitan area is projected to rank fifth in the nation in population growth – bringing the current population of 6.5 million to greater than 9.2 million residents. This population growth presents an urgent need to maintain and expand public infrastructure, including roadways, water supply, sewer, and other utilities.

To meet water demands for 2025 and beyond and to meet the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District and Fort Bend Subsidence District’s groundwater reduction requirements, the West Harris County Regional Water Authority has partnered with the North Fort Bend Water Authority to deliver the Surface Water Supply Project.

Surface water will be supplied from Lake Houston by way of the City of Houston’s Northeast Water Purification Plant, through an approximately 39-mile-long cathodically-protected welded steel 8-foot-diameter pipeline and two large pump stations.

Because the WHCRWA is buying the water from the City of Houston, the WHCRWA is paying its share of the City of Houston’s overall water program. 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 resulting from this collaboration. Through this collaboration, these projects will be delivered faster and benefits will be realized sooner.

Why is this project necessary?

Our drinking water comes from two sources: surface water and groundwater. Surface water is water stored above ground, such as in a river or lake. Groundwater is the water beneath Earth’s surface in underground aquifers. In the greater Houston area, sustained pumping and withdrawal of groundwater causes 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. From 1906 to 2000, as much as seven feet of subsidence has been measured in northwest Harris County.

Groundwater withdrawal in Harris and Galveston counties is regulated by the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District (HGSD), a special purpose district created by the Texas Legislature in 1975 for the purpose of reducing land subsidence. In general, the HGSD requires all water suppliers in Harris and Galveston counties to reduce groundwater pumping based on the rate of subsidence in their area. Areas 1 and 2 are already required to and primarily use surface water. Area 3 is mandated to convert to 80 percent surface water supply by 2035. Most of the City of Houston has already converted from groundwater to surface water. Now, surrounding areas must follow suit in meeting these regulatory mandates.

The WHCRWA provides service to a large portion of Area 3, which is still largely dependent on groundwater. To comply with the conversion requirements of the HGSD, the WHCRWA is delivering the Surface Water Supply Project. This project will help to reduce land subsidence and will meet the water needs of a rapidly-growing population.

How might the Surface Water Supply Project affect me?

When construction starts in 2020, 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. To minimize these impacts, the majority of the pipeline will be installed within existing pipeline corridors. Public safety, ease of access and well-marked detour information will be a priority throughout the life of the project. Project team members are committed to communicating proactively with the community.

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. In addition, 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 WHCRWA’s contractors will coordinate with these entities to phase construction so that disruption is minimized.

If real estate is located along the proposed alignment, property owners will be contacted well in advance of this construction activity and may have already been contacted regarding right-of-way acquisitions and right-of-entry.

Design for the Surface Water Supply Project began in the spring of 2016. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2020 and be completed in 2023.

Although the construction phase of the project is slated to occur from 2020 to 2023, no area will 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 will last approximately six to nine months.

Why was this route chosen?

The WHCRWA negotiated with the City of Houston to purchase additional surface water. The agreement between the City and the WHCRWA requires that the water come from the City of Houston’s 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.

Residents and businesses located within the WHCRWA and the NFBWA will be the recipients of water supplied by this project. Surface water will be delivered through a series of pump stations and 8-foot-diameter pipelines to municipal water providers for distribution to residents and businesses.

Who is paying for the Surface Water Supply Project?

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 state-wide program for financing water projects. The total project costs are estimated to be $680 million, and this project is funded solely by the water authorities. The water authorities’ interest payments and repayment of principal on the bonds to the Texas Water Development Board will be supported by each water authority’s sale of surface water to their customers and pumpage fees charged on well water pumped within the water authorities.  NO ONE OUTSIDE OF THE WATER AUTHORITIES’ GROUNDWATER REDUCTION PLAN WILL PAY FOR THE SURFACE WATER SUPPLY PROJECT.

What is the West Harris County Regional Water Authority?

If you have questions, concerns, or feedback related to the Surface Water Supply Project, please contact the Surface Water Supply Project team at info@surfacewatersupplyproject.com.

Project Newsletter

SWSP Newsletter Winter 2019