The Proposed Cedar Ridge Reservoir is a Waste of Money
“Abilene does not need Cedar Ridge to fulfill water needs” said Janice Bezanson TCA executive director shortly before the Abilene City Council approved an increase in water rates for the city’s water customers. The projected cost of the proposed Cedar Ridge Reservoir had risen to $290 million in the regional water plan for the Brazos River basin approved earlier in November.
TCA’s op-ed point made three major points:
#1 Abilene’s current water supply is already 67% more than the city’s projected municipal demand for Abilene in 2070, demonstrating clearly that the reservoir isn’t needed;
#2 Cedar Ridge Reservoir would lose so much water to evaporation that the total water supply for the upper Brazos River would be reduced, not increased; and,
#3 The water demand used to “justify” Cedar Ridge Reservoir in the regional water plan is water to cool hypothetical steam electric generating plants, but none are proposed for the region. Coal-fired generating plants are declining; indeed, many existing plants have been decommissioned. The dramatic proliferation of wind farms in counties near Abilene make building a steam electric generating plant even less likely in that region than elsewhere.
The op-ed ended by urging the City Council Members of Abilene to abandon the costly, unnecessary project.
Abilene’s current water supply
Being included in the Regional Plan doesn’t necessarily mean that the reservoir will be built – that’s up to the Abilene City Council. It’s time for Abilene residents to take a close look at the $290 million price tag to build Cedar Ridge Reservoir – you’ll learn that building it would be a waste of Abilene citizens’ money.
Abilene’s current water supply is adequate to meet its growing needs at least until 2070. According to the draft Regional Water Plan, Abilene’s future municipal water use is projected to grow to 32,060 acre-feet per year (AFY) in 2070. The City of Abilene currently has permits and contracts totaling 53,500 acre-feet of water per year. In short, Abilene already has access to enough water – now – to provide 67% more water per year than will be needed in 2070.
To justify its recommendation of Cedar Ridge, the Regional Water Plan projects a demand for water to cool steam electric generating plants in the Abilene area – this in spite of the fact that steam-electric generation is declining throughout the country and no new steam electric plants are proposed for the region.
Plans for more than 150 new coal-fired plants have been canceled in the U.S. in the past decade, some power plants have been shut down, and, in 2012, only one new coal-fired plant came on line in the entire country. The odds of an additional steam electric plant being built in Taylor or surrounding counties are vanishingly small.
Even if a steam electric plant were built, it would be unprecedented and inappropriate to ask the people of Abilene to build a reservoir to provide water to cool it. Historically, power companies have secured and paid for their own cooling water.
There are other reasons besides cost not to build the proposed Cedar Ridge Reservoir. A major one is the amount of water that would be lost to evaporation. The amount of evaporation is determined by the surface acreage of the lake. According to an engineering study, Cedar Ridge would lose an average of 16,000 acre-feet per year to evaporation. That is, it would evaporate and lose more than half as much water each year as the City of Abilene’s current annual municipal use. The loss to evaporation would mean a reduced flow downstream, which, in turn, would mean less water in Possum Kingdom Reservoir. This loss, balanced against the gain in water availability of building the new reservoir, would have the net effect of reducing the total amount of available water supply in the upper Brazos River Basin.
Abilene has done an excellent job of providing an adequate water supply for its citizens. Texas Conservation Alliance applauds the City for its recycling project to add water to Lake Fort Phantom. At the same time we urge the City’s leaders to abandon the costly Cedar Ridge project that isn’t need for Abilene’s future.
Building Cedar Ridge Reservoir will mean Abilene’s water rates will go up. While there are engineering firms and other contractors who would benefit from building Cedar Ridge, it will be costly for the people of Abilene. It should only be built if it’s truly needed – and it isn’t.