Water Services

When will College Station get a water reservoir?

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

From time to time, someone will ask, “when will College Station get a water reservoir?” Throughout my 23 years with the city’s Water Services Department, the answer has always been “it won’t.”

But if such a topic were to surface, it would likely happen at a meeting of the Brazos Region G Regional Water Planning Group, one of 16 regional groups in the state.

College Station will be among the water users discussed at the regional planning group’s public meeting on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Carters Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. They want to gather input from stakeholders in Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Lee, Milam, Robertson, and Washington counties on matters related to available water supplies, projected needs, and management strategies.

The feedback will help shape the 2021 Regional Water Plan the regional groups submit to the Texas Water Development Board.

Under the regional water planning process, stakeholder interest groups such as cities, water utilities, agriculture, river authorities, industry, environmental, groundwater conservation districts, and more gather regularly to discuss water needs and strategies. Discussions include population projections, user needs, and strategies such as reservoirs, groundwater wells, and conservation.

In other words, individuals with knowledge of water needs and population collaborate to make sure our water future remains sustainable.

The regional water plans are developed on a rolling five-year cycle, then consolidated into a state water plan. The latest five-year plan – to be finalized in 2021 — is in the draft stage and is almost ready for its public debut. The final version will be reviewed by the Texas Water Development Board and incorporated into the next state plan.

The regional meetings tend to be “must-see” events for water nerds like me, but the public and other water professionals are also encouraged to attend. Even if you don’t consider yourself a water nerd, you may come away impressed at the diligent planning that goes into ensuring that Texas and the Brazos Valley continue to have a reliable supply of one of our most vital resources.

For more information, go to brazosgwater.org.

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Where there’s smoke, there’s wastewater

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

College Station Water Services’ has started its latest round of smoke testing to evaluate the condition of some of our older wastewater lines. Since today is World Toilet Day, it’s a perfect time to make sure these sewer lines are working properly.

We’ll conduct the tests along University Drive and part of the Eastgate area today through Friday between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. If necessary, we may have to extend some of the work to Monday.

World Toilet Day is designed to inspire action about the global sanitation crisis. According to the World Health Organization, a safely managed sanitation service means people can use toilet facilities that are their own, not shared, and we dispose of waste in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

Smoke testing is an indispensable tool that helps us maintain our essential infrastructure by identifying the locations of defects and improper connections. Our technicians blow an odorless and non-toxic smoke into the sewer and wait to see where it might leak.

As part of the process, smoke may exit through vent pipes on roofs, wastewater manholes, and from the ground where there are breaks in the sewer system. It’s also possible that smoke may find its way into service connections and vent from buildings served by the lines.

Our wastewater collection system is designed to treat wastewater, not stormwater, and excess water takes up capacity in the pipes and winds up in our wastewater treatment plants. We must treat like sewage the extra water that gets into our system through inflow and infiltration, and that means higher treatment costs.

Inflow is stormwater that enters the system through direct connections such as downspouts and drains connected to service lines. Infiltration is rainfall that accumulates near sewer lines and enters the system through structural problems such as cracks and holes in the pipes.

We should count ourselves as fortunate that we aren’t among the 4.2 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safely managed sanitation services.

For more information, contact me at 979-764-6223 or jnations@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Sales tax holiday can save you money — and water

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

The Memorial Day weekend in the Brazos Valley will be busy with the Texas Weekend of Remembrance, high school graduations, dance recitals, athletic events, and more.

The return of sunny, warm weather also means it an ideal time to make your home and landscape more efficient. If you upgrade your irrigation controller, install a rain sensor, and add mulch to your drought-tolerant plants this weekend, it’s all tax-free.

The Texas Comptroller’s Office has declared a sales tax holiday from Saturday through Monday on the purchase of certain water– and energy-efficient products. This year marks the third time the tax holiday has provided an incentive for Texans to conserve our limited water resources.

Eligible tax-exempt items are things that can be used to conserve or retain groundwater, recharge water tables, or decrease ambient air temperature to reduce water lost to evaporation. Among the eligible items are:

  • WaterSense-labeled products.
  • Soaker or drip-irrigation hoses.
  • Moisture control for sprinkler or irrigation systems (rain shutoff switches or soil moisture sensors).
  • Rain barrels (rainwater harvesting equipment is always exempt from state sales tax).
  • Permeable ground cover surfaces that allow water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points.
  • Plants, trees, and grasses.
  • Soil and compost.

WaterSense-labeled products go through an independent, third-party certification process and meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s specifications for efficiency and performance. The beauty is having water-saving products in your home or business that deliver exceptional performance and savings on water bills for years to come.

For more information, visit the Texas Comptroller’s Water-Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday webpage.

Stay cool this weekend and get ready for water and energy savings!

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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State honors BV WaterSmart for conservation impact

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

If you’re among the more than 500 College Station residents who’ve signed up to receive irrigation notices from Brazos Valley WaterSmart, you’ve seen the impact of the innovative program on your water bill. For those of us who keep an eye on our precious aquifers, the impact has been even more dramatic.

The program’s goal is to improve residential outdoor water use and reduce landscape overwatering, and it’s succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. When you consider our population has grown by about 30 percent since the 2010 Census, the results are downright astounding.

The water budgets it generates and other interventions such as our irrigation checkups have reduced the number of high-volume single-family residential consumers in College Station by nearly 50 percent.  Since the program’s inception in 2010, the cumulative reduction in water use in College Station is more than 630 million gallons of water. That’s about how much our community consumes in two full winter months.

The program has even had a positive effect on the efficient use of your tax dollars, trimming the City of College Station’s electric bill by at least $110,000 a year because of reduced pumping, treatment, and electricity needed for distribution.

It’s not surprising that others across the state have noticed our miracle on the Brazos.

Last week, Brazos Valley WaterSmart received the prestigious Blue Legacy Award from the Texas Water Development Board as part of “Texas Water Day at the Capitol” in Austin. The award recognizes those who have demonstrated an outstanding and innovative commitment to the state’s mission of promoting responsible management of water resources and the conservation of our water resources.

Brazos Valley WaterSmart is an educational and research partnership of Texas A&M University, the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District, and the City of College Station. That means a lot of outstanding people are behind this tremendous success story.

How BV WaterSmart Happened

Faculty, staff and graduate students from the A&M’s Water Management and Hydrological Science degree program, Texas AgriLife Research, and the Texas Center for Applied Technology worked with staff from the city and district to develop the program. Agriculture and Life Sciences Professor Ronald Kaiser is the director.

The research team found that about half of the water used in College Station and Bryan is for landscape, lawn, and outdoor purposes. They knew that helping the community find creative and innovative ways to be more efficient was the key to significant savings.

The six programs they created include weather stations, a website, personalized weekly watering notifications, residential water budgets, free residential irrigation system inspections, water conservation seminars, and public service announcements. Each program focuses on a different aspect of outdoor water usage to educate residents on ways to conserve.

To everyone involved — especially the environmental technicians who work on specifying, installing, and maintaining the weather stations and rain gauges that make up the weather-based watering recommendations — WAY TO GO!

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Fighting fatbergs is a dirty (but avoidable) job

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

Remember the iconic line from the movie “Titanic”?

“Fatberg, right ahead!”

Wait, what?

Sorry, the movie line was actually about an iceberg. But fatbergs are real, and they can put a fat hole in a utility’s maintenance and operations budget.

Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) – along with flushable and non-flushable rags and wipes – merge in our sewers to form solid, immovable blockages known as fatbergs. They are worse in the winter months when cooler temperatures make it easier for the FOG to solidify.

Recently in London, it took nine weeks to dislodge a fatberg measuring 800 feet long and weighing 130 tons. That’s the same as 10 London double-decker buses.

The unsightly blobs can also significantly impact water quality and the environment after sewer overflows. We traced a recent sewer overflow to grease and paper towels coming from a fast food restaurant, which had to close for five hours while we made repairs.

Who drew the short straw?

While College Station hasn’t had fatbergs that colossal, we aren’t immune to problems caused by FOG and wipes. When a big grease blob sticks to the ultraviolet light used to disinfect our wastewater, the light can’t do its job.

When that happens, Courageous operators must manually remove disgusting balls of grease, wads of wipes, paper towels – even underwear – to keep expensive equipment from being damaged.

I’m not sure, but our brave operators probably draw straws to see who handles that dirty job!

Fatbergs can be costly

FOG and trash in the sewer system can also lead to increases in your wastewater rate. For the Lick Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion, a $150,000 preliminary screening station was added to the design to remove such things as wipes, rags, hygiene products of the cotton and plastic variety, and trash.

If you need to see it to believe it, the City of Spokane, Washington filmed an experiment with several commonly flushed items to find the answer to the question “will it flush?” Spoiler alert: only the toilet paper flushed.

Manually removing the grease at our wastewater plants costs the city an average of $600 a week.

3 ways to trim the fat

  1. Scrape food scraps into the garbage and let grease solidify in pans before placing it in the trash. Pour oil and grease into a can and after it hardens, put the sealed container in the regular trash.
  2. Avoid placing paper products – even those marked as flushable – down the drain or in the toilet. #NoWipesinPipes
  3. You can help protect your sewer system by remembering to only flush the 3 P’s – pee, poop, and toilet paper.

College Station Water Services – especially our valiant wastewater operators – appreciate your assistance in reducing our fatberg problem.

If you have any questions, email me at jnations@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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Can you imagine a day without water?

By Jennifer Nations, Water Resource Coordinator

Think a moment about your typical morning routine.

You wake up and make a steaming cup of fresh coffee or tea before heading to the toilet and the shower. After you get dressed in freshly washed clothes, you eat a nutritious breakfast and clean your dishes in the dishwasher or sink.

Of course, you make your dentist happy by brushing your teeth.

Now, imagine for a moment that you had no water. None of your morning activities would be possible without safe and reliable water and the infrastructure that delivers it to your home.

If you’ve never gone without water, it’s almost impossible to envision a day without it. Your water service may have temporarily been shut off to repair a leak, but you had full confidence that the water would soon flow again.

Today is the fourth annual Imagine a Day Without Water, a nationwide day of education and advocacy about the value of water. The Value of Water Campaign is helping hundreds of organizations across the country host events and spearhead projects aimed at raising awareness about the crucial need for investing in our nation’s water infrastructure.

After decades of underfunding, water infrastructure across the nation has aged and needs replacement or significant repairs. Drought, flooding, and population changes have dramatically increased the stress on our water and wastewater systems.

According to the Value of Water Campaign’s report on The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure, a one-day disruption in water services at a national level would result in a $43.5 billion loss in sales for businesses. In just eight days, a national water service stoppage would put nearly two million jobs in jeopardy.

In contrast, for each job created in the water sector, 3.68 jobs are added to the national economy. For every $1 spent on infrastructure improvements, the United States generates $6 in economic returns. That’s a sound investment.

It’s not all gloom and doom. College Station’s water and wastewater systems are young compared to many cities. For the most part, we’ve been able to stay ahead of our infrastructure needs. Each day – including weekends and holidays – our Water Services employees maintain 454 miles of water lines, 363 miles of wastewater lines, nine groundwater wells, and three wastewater treatment plants.

City councils and community leaders through the years have recognized that water is essential to the quality of life and economic competitiveness and have supported the water and wastewater rates necessary to maintain award-winning water and wastewater systems.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Mayor Karl Mooney read an official proclamation (at right) for Imagine a Day Without Water to draw attention to the many ways we maintain critical water and wastewater infrastructure.

How you can help

No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves safe, reliable, and accessible water.

You can help by conserving water. Since irrigation water gushing down the street benefits no one, sign up for landscape watering recommendations from Brazos Valley WaterSmart. Every gallon of water saved is a gallon left in the Simsboro Aquifer for later use.

You can also help keep our waterways clean by avoiding over-fertilizing, picking up litter, and disposing of hazardous waste at Household Hazardous Waste collection events like the one scheduled for Oct. 20. Improperly discarded fertilizer, motor oil, and litter make its way into our creeks, which feed into the Navasota and Brazos Rivers – and someone is drinking that water downstream.

A groundswell of communities and partners have come together to promote safe and reliable water systems with Imagine a Day Without Water. We can make a difference by leveraging our collective power, educating our decision-makers, and inspiring our communities to make water infrastructure a priority.

Let’s invest in our water systems, so no American ever has to live a day without water.

 


About the Blogger

Jennifer Nations has been the City of College Station’s water resource coordinator since 1999 after two years as BVSWMA’s environmental compliance officer. She’s also chair of the Water Conservation and Reuse Division for the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association. A native of Fremont, Calif., Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from UC-Davis in 1995 and a master’s degree in water management & hydrologic science from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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