Water treatment plant shuts down due to drought


by ANDREW CHUNG / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndrewC_KVUE


Posted on August 29, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 30 at 7:45 AM

AUSTIN -- From the looks of it the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority's water treatment plant is pretty impressive.

The plant opened last year in Cedar Park at a cost of $140 million. It's a partnership between the cities of Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock.

There's one problem. Because the plant draws water from Lake Travis, and because the lake's levels continue to drop, the plant had to temporarily shut down two weeks ago.

"It's absolutely due to the drought, yeah, but it doesn't create a problem for any of the cities that are taking the water right now,” said Tom Gallier, the plant’s general manager.

Cedar Park and Leander were using water from this plant. Round Rock had not yet begun to draw water from the area. The plant shutdown doesn't pose a problem because those cities have their own water treatment plants.

Gallier says Cedar Park was only getting about 10 percent of its water supply from the plant, while Leander was receiving about 15 percent. 

This plant was built for the future with the goal of eventually supplanting the other plants in the area in the long run. Even though it has temporarily shut down, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for the staff to do.

"We have a lot of maintenance to do on a facility this large...I call it like turning an aircraft carrier. You don't do anything quickly. Everything has to be done carefully in stages, because we have very large pieces of equipment here. So there'll be plenty to keep us all busy during this several month shutdown, and we have some construction activities going on, some things that we're still trying to finish up from the first phase of construction; not an unusual thing," said Gallier.

Leander City Manger Kent Cagle isn’t worried about the plant’s shutdown. "The BCRUA plant was all about the future for us to accommodate future growth. So for the foreseeable future, our Sandy Creek plant can handle all of our water treatment needs," he said.

At the same time, the low lake levels stick out to Cagle, like anyone else. "We're all very concerned about it, so everyone needs to be careful with water and conserve, and I think our residents have done a pretty good job of that so far, but we need to continue."

This water treatment plant was built to cope with Williamson County's growth, and in the future, it has plans to improve the way it draws water from Lake Travis. 

For right now though, it's a victim of the drought.