ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A serious question was posed at a recent Abilene City Council meeting: Should the City of Abilene start restricting how much water it supplies to other areas? The topic was brought up after members spoke about how rural development outside of Abilene’s city limits have continued to grow over the last decade.
Some city employees are attributing this growth to water supply, and restrictions could possibly be put in place to encourage growth within the city.
For years, the water that residents use for drinking, bathing, or even for their land in many communities in and surrounding Taylor County, has come directly from Abilene. For Potosi, this water is especially important because of the residents’ lifestyles.
“Potosi is, largely, still a farming community,” said Jennifer Potts, general manager of Potosi Water Supply Corporation. “It’s obviously very important for our community. They supply 100% of the water to our residents.”
Rural cities like Potosi, that are completely dependent on Abilene’s water supply and are also developing, were discussed at the September 14 city council meeting. The question brought up was, “Is this encouraging development outside of Abilene’s city limits?”
City Manager Robert Hanna addressed this issue, even citing the most recent 10-year census.
“In the last decennial census, the population of the county grew larger than the population of the city, I think for the first time,” Hanna addressed the meeting.
Abilene’s director of water utilities, Rodney Taylor, brought up the correlation between the water supply and rural development, saying new developments would not be possible without it.
“Where can Abilene expand and grow its borders if we’ve already got development encroached on our limits,” pondered Taylor.
These areas, as Taylor explained, take more water than they used to. Even though the contract has some supply restrictions, those have not been enforced by the city. Because of this, and because some of these contracts were developed in the 1950’s, Hanna said the model they have used for regional water supply is getting to the point where it may no longer work for the city.
One solution mentioned at the meeting is using a “Take-or-Pay” method, where cities would have to communicate exactly how much water they will need and pay the money upfront, whether they use it all or not. Another option mentioned was increasing the cost of the water supply or even looking for new water sources.
Whatever option is chosen, council member Brian Yates told his fellow councilmembers they should not decline water to any region.
“People live in these areas and depend on this water, and we can’t say no. So, it’s on us to prepare for yes,” Yates assured.
While some restrictions may be put in place to better manage the water, Taylor said they will still work to help communities like Potosi.
“They know the importance they play in our communities,” added Potts. “So, I trust them.”
Abilene City Council has not yet made a decision about what will change moving forward, but more discussions will be held in future meetings. Taylor explained the goal is to have city council come up with a policy that will help manage the water supply system in a better way.