We learned this week that over 1.3 million gallons of water was trucked out of Spicewood Beach and sold to contractors. They trucked the water out of the community for use by private customers. Spicewood Beach’s wells began failing Monday. It wasn’t initially clear how significant 1.3 million gallons was. Now we know.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), which owns and operates the wells in Spicewood Beach, says in an email to StateImpact Texas that the total amount of water pumped out in 2011 was 34.8 million gallons.
Of that, water haulers used at least 1.3 million gallons, and Spicewood Elementary used approximately 1.1 million gallons.
Around 1,100 residents are served by the system. They used 32.3 million gallons of water.
So here’s what we can take away from the numbers:
- Over 1.3 million gallons was sold to outside haulers. That’s over four percent of the 32.2 million gallons of water used by residents in Spicewood Beach.
- That 1.3 million-plus gallons of water came cheap for the haulers. According to one of them, they paid around $6 for every 1,000 gallons of water (which seems to be a standard rate). That means the LCRA may have earned less than $8,000 for the water sold from Spicewood Beach.
- More water was sold from Spicewood Beach (1.3 million gallons) to the Hills of Texas Bulk Water haulers than was used by the elementary school (1.1 million gallons).
- If Hills of Texas Bulk Water used a 2,000-gallon truck (like the other hauler, Hamilton Pool H20, did), that equals 650 trucks of water taken out of Spicewood Beach. That’s almost two trips a day, every day of the year.
- The average household use for water in Spicewood Beach is around 29,000 gallons of water a year. The water that was sold to haulers would have been enough for a year’s worth of water for about 45 homes in Spicewood Beach.
The main question is: if the LCRA hadn’t sold water from Spicewood Beach, would it have prevented the wells from failing? It’s difficult to say. But the over 1.3 million gallons of water trucked out is enough to supply the entire community (based on their 2011 use) for two weeks, perhaps more, under their current Stage 4 water restrictions.
In hindsight, selling this community’s water certainly doesn’t seem like the right call. That’s a sentiment echoed by one of the haulers, Larry Ogden of Hamilton Pool H20. He says his company trucked out much less water than the 1.3 million gallons taken out by Hills of Texas Bulk Water. “I didn’t even know Spicewood Beach wasn’t connected to [the LCRA’s] network out there,” he told StateImpact Texas yesterday. Ogden thought Spicewood Beach was part of the LCRA’s larger water system in nearby Marble Falls. “It would have been helpful for us to know that,” he says. “It sure looks like, from this point of view, they should have stepped in earlier.”