SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — In an effort to clarify and correct misinformation regarding the underground pipeline project under Sessom Drive, Southwest Texas State University officials reiterated that the project was initiated to protect the vital Edwards Aquifer and has no impact on the quality and no discernable impact on the quantity of water flow in the San Marcos River.
“When the university purchased Aquarena in 1994, we promised to be stewards of the natural resources that we acquired with that purchase.We are committed to keeping that promise,” said Mike Abbott, SWT executive vice president.
The project calls for an underground pipeline that will transport water under Sessom Drive from Spring Lake to the East Chill Plant. Most of the water used in the chilling plant will be evaporated with the residual amount discharged into the university’s sewage lines.
“This project has been a work in progress for three years and has been reviewed by all the appropriate agencies from the Aquarena Springs Environmental Review Committee at the university level, to the City’s Habitat Conservation Plan officer, to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission at the state level and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the federal level,” said Bill Nance, vice president of finance and support services at SWT.
“Recent Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) restrictions on the pumpage of water from the aquifer have forced us to look into alternative sources of water both for today and for the future needs of the university community,” he explained.
The EAA, as the entity charged with ensuring compliance with a federal court order calling for a reduction in pumpage from the aquifer, has reduced SWT’s pumping allocation year after year.
“If the current drought conditions continue and we have no significant amount of rainfall, we could conceivably reach stage four in the EAA’s drought management plan by August,” explained Ed Fauver, director of SWT’s physical plant. “Stage four restrictions would not allow us to pump sufficient water from the aquifer to operate the university. This project is the most cost effective avenue we have available at this time to alleviate that problem.
“The next best option, the reuse of ‘greywater’ within buildings, is considerably more expensive. The cost of this entire pipeline project would equip only one medium-size building to reuse greywater,” he added.
Water restrictions imposed during stage four would not allow for a sufficient amount of water to the cooling towers to air condition the offices, classrooms and residence halls on campus. This would typically occur during mid-to-late August and into September, which is the beginning of the academic year for the university.
In seeking an alternate source of water, university officials stressed that the utmost care and caution was used so that the environmental impact to the lake, springs and river was minimized.
“The water to be pumped to our cooling towers is only 1/1,000 of the average spring flow or 3/1,000 of the lowest spring flow ever,” Nance reiterated.
Baker-Aicklen and Associates, engineers for the project, will assure that the contractor adheres to all applicable regulations, including those designed to protect the San Marcos River. Hager Nurseries was consulted to ensure that the trees encompassed in the construction site below Joe’s Crab Shack are not harmed during the construction process.
A temporary above-ground pipeline has been erected to divert groundwater displaced during the construction and reroute it to the ponds in front of the J.C. Kellam Building until the project is completed. Once the project is completed the above-ground pipeline will be removed.