Water costs to rise in The Woodlands, Conroe

August 10, 2012 4:16:43 PM PDT
The cost of water in The Woodlands and Conroe is going up, and people who live there will have to pay more to get it. The utility districts in Montgomery County are upping one of their fees. They say it's because future water availability could be a problem unless they do something now to alleviate the shortage.

The fee increase does affect most water users in The Woodlands, Conroe and other parts of Montgomery County. And it's paying for a major change in the way water is delivered to homes and businesses.

The Woodlands resident Glenn Gilchrist cares about the environment. He likes to conserve energy and water.

"I don't think a lot of people understand how serious the water situation is. I really don't," Gilchrist said.

He's doing exactly what asked of him by a community growing so much that the main source of water, which is 30 underground wells, is slowly running out.

"The groundwater aquifers are being depleted faster than they're being recharged," said James Stinson with The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency.

And that's why 30 minutes north on the banks of Lake Conroe, there's a massive project to supplement the aquifer.

"It's not an unusual problem. It's the same challenge that's been faced in Harris County and Galveston County and other areas. Our population has simply grown to the point that we need more water," said Jace Houston with the San Jacinto River Authority.

The SJRA is just starting construction on a 5-year effort to build a water treatment facility on the southeast corner Lake Conroe and construct 55 miles of pipe to deliver it to Conroe and The Woodlands.

"Surface water is more expensive to treat, it's more expensive to deliver. It's something that we've put off as long as possible to keep costs as low as possible," said Houston.

It'll cost $500 million and to help pay for it and encourage conservation, a Groundwater Reduction Plan fee will charge $1.25 per 1,000 gallons used each month. That's a 50-cent increase beginning September 1, adding about $5 to the average bill.

It's a fee that some may not like, but which Glenn Gilchrist thinks is needed and is willing to pay.

"It doesn't surprise me things are getting complicated," he said.

This year's increase is not the last one. The GRP fee will go up again next year to $1.75, and then to $2.25 in 2015.

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