Rural and non-municipal water systems survived last year's drought with little damage to their overall infrastructure, but the sparse rains did provide a good test.
Without counting Fort Hood, roughly one-fifth of water customers in Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties are served by rural or non-municipal water systems.
There are more than 55 water entities in the three counties, with 13 operated by municipalities and eight operated by Fort Hood or a state agency. Rural and non-municipal systems are not funded by property taxes and collect the majority of their revenues from the sale of water.
"One thing we are learned from this last year is basically you can't have enough sources for water," said Lee Kelly, general manager for the Central Texas Water Supply Corporation. "And it is good to go out and find redundant sources."
During the drought, Central Texas Water Supply had five of its seven pumps out of service at its Stillhouse Hollow Lake treatment plant because of receding lake levels. The lack of pumps made it harder for the water wholesaler to supply nearly 6 million gallons a day to the 19 transmission systems it supports.
To cope with decreasing lake levels, the treatment plant had to switch to pumps lower in the lake, which affects the service. "You just don't have a good water quality, so you have to put in more chemicals in the water, and it is more expensive to treat the water," said Kelly. "It raised our cost by about 20 percent."
But the Kempner Water Supply Corporation, the largest rural and non-municipal water provider in the three counties wasn't forced to use its second or lower Stillhouse Hollow pump as the lake levels declined.
"We never hit our bottom intake through the drought last year so that is a good thing," said Delores Goode, general manager for the Kempner corporation. "We know that we will have water in future water shortages."
With a 300-square-mile area, Kempner serves more than 5,200 water connections, which is slightly less than the city of Belton's water service. Kempner runs lines from Stillhouse to customers between Copperas Cove and Lampasas, according to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality.
The main difference between a municipal system and a non-taxing corporation is that the city can get bonds backed by tax notes to do improvements, said Jennifer White with the Kempner Water Supply Corporation, which has a $6.5 million budget.
She said the corporation relies on a base rate of $55 per month to handle its maintenance and operations while the rate of usages supports purchasing and treating water.
Goode added that Kempner has a capital improvement plan and tried "to budget those things like everyone else."
A few breaks
During the height of last summer's drought, some Central Texas water systems reported problems related to the increasingly dry conditions.
"We had a few more line breaks than normal because of the drought, yes, but it wasn't really bad," said Grandy Glenn, president of the 439 Water Supply Corporation, which has about 2,200 water connections, with customers in Belton, Nolanville and along Farm-to-Market 439.
Fiscal year budgets are about $1.2 million, said Barbara Caffrey, business manager for the corporation.
Glenn added that the 439 corporation just finished a $2.5 million improvement project to supply about half of its customers with full fire service capabilities, which means a large-sized transmission line replaced another line to provide more water pressure. It took a government loan to complete the project.
"We do a lot of future planning, and we have this upgrade we've been working on for the last nine to 10 years," said Glenn. "It has taken a number of years to make it come to fruition."
Bell County Water Control District No. 3, which has about 1,400 connections and serves most of Nolanville, also had some problems with broken water lines.
"We have been real lucky," said Gary Hammerschmidt, a former general manager for the district who is retiring. "All the area departments we know are doing the same things. We are trying to keep the leaks from happening."
Bell County No. 3 has an annual budget of about $1.1 million to maintain, purchase treated water and set aside funds for improvement projects. The constraints of only having the one revenue stream led to tight budget planning.
"Through the years, have we usually gotten grants to do add-ons and run 40-year loans," said Lee Evert, one of seven employees for the water district. "So far we haven't had problems keeping up. We have had tremendous growth here in Nolanville the last six or seven years, but we were able to stay on top of it."
Contact Mason W. Canales at email@example.com or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.
Municipal water systems
Entity County Population served Retail connections
Killeen Bell 11,9467 54,075
Temple Bell 66,102 30,119
Copperas Cove Coryell 29,956 12,284
Harker Heights Bell 27,936 9,312
Belton Bell 18,893 5,454
Gatesville Coryell 7,300 3,166
Lampasas Lampasas 7,868 3,143
Morgans Point Resort Bell 4,063 1,664
Rogers Bell 1,132 574
Holland Bell 1,539 513
Oglesby Coryell 813 271
Evant Coryell 390 212
Troy Bell 1938 646
Fort Hood water systems
Entity Population served Retail connections
US Army South Fort Hood 54,250 12,492
US Army Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation 1,650 138
US Army North Fort Hood 7,000 2,333
Non-municipal water systems
Entity County Population served Retail connections
Kempner Water Supply Corporation Lampasas 15,750 5,250
439 Water Supply Corporation Bell 6,669 2,223
Salado Water Supply Corporation Bell 6,441 2,147
Bell Milam Falls Water Supply Corporation Bell 5,439 1,813
Coryell City Water Supply District Coryell 5,073 1,691
Dog Ridge Water Supply Corporation Bell 4,410 1,470
Bell County Water Ctrl. and Improvement No. 3 Bell 4,500 1,387
Moffat Water Supply Corporation Bell 4,500 1,369
West Bell County Water Supply Corporation Bell 3,783 1,261
Texas Criminal Justice Hilltop, Mt View, Crain units Coryell 3,762 1,254
Multi-county Water Supply Corporation Coryell 3,187 1,230
Texas Criminal Justice Hughes Unit Coryell 3,672 1,224
East Bell Water Supply Corporation Bell 3,444 1,148
Fort Gates Water Supply Corporation Coryell 2,844 948
Texas Criminal Justice Murray Woodman Coryell 2,842 947
LCRA Lometa Regional Water System Lampasas 2,772 924
Pendleton Water Supply Corporation Bell 2,589 863
Armstrong Water Supply Corporation Bell 2,080 831
Bell County Water Ctrl. and Improvement No. 2 Bell 2,310 770
Mountain Water Supply Corporation Coryell 1,908 636
Little Elm Valley Water Supply Corporation Bell 1,617 539
The Grove Water Supply Corporation Coryell 1,005 335
Liberty Village Bell 906 302
Topsey Water Supply Corporation Coryell 903 301
Flat Water Supply Corporation Coryell 630 210
Oenaville & Belfalls Water Supply Corporation Bell 603 201
Cedar Grove Mobile Home Park Coryell 507 169
Bird Creek Mobile Home Park Bell 459 153
Bell County Water Ctrl. and Improvement No. 5 Bell 408 136
Leon Junction Water Supply Corporation Coryell 288 96
Stagecoach Inn Bell 250 90
Lakewood Mobile Home Park Bell 267 89
Bell County Water Ctrl. and Improvement No. 1 Bell 207 69
Central Texas College Bell 5110 57
Arrowhead Hill Water Supply Corporation Bell 81 27
Camp Tahuaya Boy Scouts of USA Bell 300 25
Woodland Acres Water Association Lampasas 54 18
Texas Parks and Wildlife Parrie Haynes Ranch Bell 125 16
Source: Texas Commission of Environmental Quality