Thursday, waste water treatment plant superintendent Wade Haynes tests the difference in quality from raw sewage coming into the plant and treated waste
Thursday, waste water treatment plant superintendent Wade Haynes tests the difference in quality from raw sewage coming into the plant and treated waste water, or effluent, the plant releases. (Casey Holder)
Graham has three options for water should the drought continue and conjoined Lakes Graham and Eddleman become nonfunctional as the city's public water supply, an event that could come as soon as January 2016.

“If you look at Scott Swanson's report from La Costa, it said in about 18 months we're in a dire situation, if something doesn't change rain wise, and any of these would probably take about 18 months to implement so at some point we have to decide if it's going to rain or not,” City Manager David Casteel said.

In April, city officials hired engineering firm Jacob & Martin, LTD., to conduct a study of available water sources and their viability and costs. That study is halfway completed. Jacob & Martin engineer Allen Phillips, the man charged with this task, presented his findings to date to the Graham City Council early Wednesday morning.

Phillips reported that the city could supply potable water from a combination of three sources: Groundwater from water wells, diverted water from Possum Kingdom Lake and reused water discharged from the city's water treatment plant, called effluent.

A new water supply would mean new restrictions

On average, the City of Graham diverts 3 million gallons a day (MGD) from Lakes Graham and Eddleman for use or wholesale. Phillips' report identifies a goal of 2 MGD from alternate water sources, a level that city officials think could sustain Graham's needs with aggressive water conservation measures in place.

Such restrictions would be similar to stage-five water restrictions outlined in the city's 2013 Water conservation and Drought Contingency Plan. Stage-five is considered an emergency situation in the plan and allows for actions to be dictated by conditions, stage-four restrictions ban yard watering.

Source one: Groundwater from the “Thrifty Sands”

Graham sits well away from any major, or minor, underground aquifers, with the Trinity Aquifer about 60 miles east and the Seymour Aquifer about 40 miles west of town, explained Phillips.

 “There is good water in those zones, it's just a matter of getting there,” he said.

Phillips located a 1964 report by the Texas Water Commission that states, “The best source of groundwater in Young County is in the sands of the Thrifty formation from Loving to the north and east county lines.”

“We went through and we visited with some local drillers here in the area and they confirmed that ‘Yes, that is really where you want to be.'” Phillips said. “If they're going to go out and drill a well for somebody in Young County, that is what they're looking for, the Thrifty Sands.”

Phillips' research estimates that two well fields with a total of 34 water wells could produce up to 1.25 of the 2 MGD needed. The first, a well field near Loving with 20 wells, would need to produce 521 gallons per minute (GPM), require a 13-mile transmission line and cost an estimated $4.8 million.

The other field would be near Jean, need 14 wells to produce a total of 350 GPM, require a 16-mile transmission line and cost an estimated $3.7 million. The cons of this plan, explained Phillips, are that the quality of water pumped from the wells, already close to the acceptable limit for dissolved solids and chlorides, could deteriorate with significant pumping requiring additional treatment, and the long-term reliability of this water source is unknown.

Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.