Expansion to boost water supply

For a majority of city residents, this should be the last summer until 2015 for experiencing water woes.

For the past three years, city officials worked to expand the Osage Water Treatment Plant, 3900 S. Osage St. With the expansion, the Osage Plant will increase from 40 million to 70 million gallons of treated water per day.

"Next year, we will have a huge surplus again in terms of capacity," City Manager John Ward said. "We will not be at the same point we are right now for many years to come. The capacity greatly increased, and we will be able to deal with these mild droughts."

When the project finishes, the city will be able to sell a total 120 million gallons of water per day, compared with the roughly 90 million gallons today. City residents will not reap the benefits of the expansion until next summer.

The city purchases 40 million gallons of water daily from the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority. With the expansion at the Osage Plant, the city will continue drawing 40 million gallons during the winter and spring seasons. The city will store the unused portions in reservoirs, and will use the saved amount when needed in the summer.

"Next summer, the majority of Amarillo will have adequate water to address the kind of demand we had this summer," said Emmett Autrey, city water production superintendent.
However, not all residents will enjoy more water and full water pressure. People who live west of Bell Street pull water from a separate pressure zone. Residents in that area demand more water than the pump station can handle, Autrey said.

"They could have a repeat of this water problem," he said. "It's a dissatisfying thing because the rest of the city will be in much better shape."

City officials are already planning another pump station to assist residents west of Bell Street. They must wait about three years before they, too, will enjoy the benefits, Autrey said. The approximately $20 million improvements at the Osage Plant have been proposed to last the city's water demands until 2015, Autrey said.

On Tuesday, city commissioners will discuss water consumption and drought contingency
measures again. Since July 17, commissioners have asked residents to conserve water.

If the consumption numbers do not decrease, commissioners could ask residents to participate in a voluntary odd-even watering system. The ending number of people's addresses, whether even or odd, would determine what days they could water.

Jennifer Lutz

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