PHOTO: Water spews from a main break on Patton Street in the Victory Gardens neighborhood in 2009. MERCURY FILE PHOTO
by BRAD ROLLINS
The city of San Marcos has secured a $3.2 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to replace nearly 4.5 miles of pipe in its aging, leaky municipal water system.
According to a briefing prepared by agency staff for the water development board, the loan will be used to replace 6- to 18-inch distribution lines along North LBJ Drive, between Holland and Chestnut streets; along Old Ranch Road 12, between Craddock Avenue and Holland Street; and in the Victory Gardens neighborhood.
The city will pay 1.3 percent interest on a 20-year note, saving the utility an estimated $371,000 in debt service costs compared to current market interest rates.
The North LBJ Drive water line replacement is part of a larger capital improvement project that has been under construction since October 2013; the work was originally scheduled to be completed this spring but is months behind schedule. The Old Ranch Road 12 and Victory Gardens project have been on city engineers’ drawing boards since at least 2005 when voters approved selling general obligation bonds to fund projects that include replacing water and wastewater lines and reconstructing streets.
The water infrastructure in all three areas is “approaching the 50-year lifespan and/or leakage is over 15 percent,” the water development board briefing states.
A 2013 water audit determined that the city’s water utility suffered 433.6 million gallons in annual “real losses,” defined as “main breaks and leaks, storage tank overflows, customer line breaks and leaks.” The audit found an additional 8.8 million gallons in “apparent losses,” defined as “unauthorized consumption, meter inaccuracy, billing adjustments and waivers.” Total water loss amounted to 106 gallons per connection per day compared to a statewide average of 47 gallons per connection per day.
According to the audit, the loses account for about 18 percent of all water purchased and pumped by the city in 2013, about 2.4 billion gallons. A water conservation plan adopted in April 2014 by the San Marcos City Council aims to reduce water loss to 12 percent within five years.