Texas

Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Dry Texas Town Loses Water Truck, Straining a Lifeline

Photo by Mose Buchele for StateImpact Texas.

An LCRA Tanker truck pumps water into the Spicewood Beach water system. A second truck was destroyed in an accident in October.

We recently brought you an update from Spicewood Beach, the first town in Texas to run out of water in the great Texas drought.

As we reported, things have not gotten much better there, and in some ways they’ve gotten worse. People are moving out, property values have plummeted, and residents face the prospect of nearby lake levels (and,Ā by extension, their water table) dropping even lower, if water is released from the Highland Lakes to rice farmers downstream in January.

You can now add to that list of concerns the loss of one of the trucks that was hauling water into town.

On October 28th, one of the Lower Colorado River AuthorityĀ (LCRA) tanker trucks used to haul water to the community flipped over while turning a corner into town, according to residents. The truck driver was not injured but the truck was “totaled,” confirmed an LCRA spokesperson.

The apparent cause of the accident was excessive speed, says the LCRA. That bolsters claims by Spicewood Beach residents that the trucks had been operating dangerously in the area.

“They’ve almost run over me three times out here going fast in a 20 mile an hour speed zone,” Spicewood Beach resident Jim Watson told StateImpact Texas earlier this month.

Broken glass marks the spot where an LCRA tanker truck, valued at $80,000 flipped over. The driver was uninjured. The Agency says excessive speed is the likely cause.

The LCRA owns the Spicewood Beach water system and had agreed to haul water into town after the well there failed last January. Many in Spicewood Beach hold the quasi-state agency partially responsible for the well failure. The LCRA had been selling water out of the well to others until just weeks before it stopped producing.

Now that the LCRA is down a truck (at a cost of $80,000, according to the Agency), it will have to lease vehicles to bring water into town.

Though it may not for long.

The LCRA is currently waiting for approval from the state’s environmentalĀ regulatorsĀ to sell the water system to the Canadian utility Corix.

What Comes Next for Spicewood Beach

“Once the sale is complete, Corix will have the responsibility of providing the community with water,” LCRA spokesperson Clara Tuma told StateImpact Texas in an email.

That could mean a price increase for residents, as the LCRA had committed to hauling water in for free.

And why would a company even buy a broken water system?

For one thing, the Spicewood Beach was part of a larger package of water systems the LCRA was selling that Corix was interested in.

“The 18 or so [water systems]Ā  that we eventually settled on are attractive to us because we focus on small to medium size communities,” Corix Vice President of Public Affairs Jack Tuehey told StateImpact Texas.

“Even though Spicewood Beach is currently having a problem with a lack of water supply locally … we can eventually come up with a long term solution to the water supply problem,” Tuehey added.

He said that could mean either digging a new well, or pumping water directly from the Highland Lakes and treating it for the residents there.

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