The Lake Conroe area is growing fast and the communities surrounding the lake are greatly impacted by several water issues. The Lake Conroe Association works to improve the water quality of Lake Conroe in many ways.
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What are suggestions for implementing a County-wide program for Water Conservation? Some include:
- Given the estimate above that 60% of our residential water use in summer is for irrigation, numerous concepts utilized currently by other communities could be applied. Automatic sprinkler systems can have rain sensors added which stops the system from engaging if a certain amount of rain has fallen. Manual sprinkler systems (hose with a sprinkler attached) could require a dial timer inserted before the sprinkler itself which forces the homeowner to set a specific watering duration (How many times have you turned on your manual sprinkler and forgot to turn it off?). Automatic sprinkler systems can have a feature added which turn off your system if a sprinkler head is broken off or an underground water line is broken. A water conservation alternative to rain sensors on sprinkler systems is the use of a soil moisture monitor. Many landscapers recommend this option.
- Consideration could be given to the specific landscaping plants that you select. Obviously, some plants and trees require more water than others. Similarly, certain lawn grasses require significantly less water thanSt. Augustine, for example.
- Many modifications within your home can reduce the amount of water that you consume. Examples include low water volume toilets, low water volume shower heads, and water efficient dish washers. Showers typically take less water than baths. Reducing shower duration affects water use. Reducing frequency of car washes affects water use. Eliminating the use of your water hose to clean your sidewalks and driveways reduces water use. I’m sure you could come up with further ideas of your own.
- Consideration should be given to reducing or eliminating amenity ponds and water features that are created strictly for aesthetic purposes. Amenity ponds are currently replenished with groundwater and water features (waterfalls, fountains) create excessive evaporation.
- Utility Districts/MUD’s are contemplating a tiered rate structure that charges more money per unit (gallons) based on your individual residential water use. Basically, a “standard” is set for residential water use per month. If you use the “standard” amount, you pay the standard price per gallon. If you use more water than the “standard”, you pay a higher price per gallon. If you use less water than the “standard”, you pay a lower price per gallon. This type of program assumes that water users are price sensitive and that they will reduce usage when they 1) pay closer attention to their water usage, and 2) must pay a higher unit cost per gallon due to their “excessive” use. This type of program has already been implemented in certain Utility Districts within Conroe and The Woodlands.
- State legislation could be developed that mandates water conservation in some form. Currently, neither The State of Texas nor Montgomery County nor SJRA nor LSGCD nor anyone else can mandate water conservation. Senator Nichols has approached the LCA and Lake Conroe Communities Network for assistance in drafting wording for possible water conservation legislation. You can’t submit a bill for legislation without wording. Of course, nothing says such legislation would pass; but this is a start at addressing the State-wide problem of how to provide water to an ever-growing population.
Alternative Water Sources
How could the amount of water to be drawn from Lake Conroe in the future be reduced? “Alternatives” include:
- Water conservation will be an integral part of reducing the amount of water drawn fromLakeConroe. If we use less water, then we won’t have to draw as much. Since a maximum of 100,000 acre feet per year can be drawn fromLakeConroeand more water than that will be needed someday, water conservation will be with us forever. For a separate discussion of this, see “Water Conservation” below.
- Further consideration must be given to Judge Sadler’s proposal of building two new reservoirs to capture water that would otherwise be released over the dam on Lake Conroe or lost elsewhere during periods of heavy rainfall. Conceptually, these two reservoirs would capture water before it gets toLakeConroe. If Lake Conroe were not full (at the 201 feet level), then the water would be allowed to flow into Lake Conroe. If Lake Conroe were full and excess rains would be otherwise released downstream, these reservoirs would capture the water behind dams and hold it there until Lake Conroe needed it to fill the lake to the 201 feet level (normal pool elevation). Clear obstacles to this proposal include the procurement of the land for the creation of the two reservoirs (some of which would have to come from the Sam Houston National Forest) and the multitude of environmental concerns related to such a project. The cost of such a project has not yet been determined. SJRA has agreed to conduct a feasibility study of this proposal, but a study date earlier than 2015 has not been agreed to yet by SJRA. Approvals for and construction of such reservoirs would probably take a minimum of 20 to 30 years (remembering that our County’s water needs will be here forever).
- Many have suggested that an “alternative” might be building a reservoir between Lake Conroe and The Woodlands which captures all water released over the dam atLakeConroe. This “alternative” has been discounted based on the lack of a suitable site. To be cost effective and practical, this reservoir would require too much land given the lack of undeveloped land between Lake Conroe and The Woodlands. A better option is the proposal for a reservoir near Dobbin, in the Lake Creek basin as the site already says the lead time is likely around 30 years.
Impact of Lake-Level Reductions on Lake Conroe Area – Texas A&M Report
Here is the final report for Texas A&M estimating the impact of the lake level reductions: Lake-Conroe-Final-Report.
Bottom Line Summary
- The GRP scenarios are likely to impact lake-levels significantly. Lake-levels are expected to fall more than four feet below full pool 1.6 times more often in phase one than in prior periods, and increase to 8.5 times more often in phase four.
- Direct economic impacts are most likely to occur geographically near the lake.
- Residential properties in lakefront communities enjoy a 15% premium, which declines quickly with geographic distance.
- Residents in lakefront communities expect a 28% decline in residential property values, in which case losses in real estate values would amount to $1.1 billion in the area.
- For each foot of lake-level decline beyond the first two feet, retail trade revenue in the City of Montgomery decreases about $414,000 per quarter per foot, or about $1.6 million per year per foot.
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