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First major phase of Tarrant Regional Water District's massive pipeline project nearly complete

Posted Nov. 1, 2018

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Newly-built raw water infrastructure will extend 150 miles from existing source Lake Palestine to Lake Benbrook.

The pipes are big enough to drive a pickup through.

There are trenches holding the pipes deep enough to accommodate a narrow, two-story building.

And one of the pipeline’s gigantic valves weighs more than 100 tons and is 40 feet tall.

Building the 150-mile-long, $2.3 billion Integrated Pipeline (IPL) Project — designed to bring hundreds of millions of gallons of water a day from three East Texas reservoirs to an increasingly thirsty North Central Texas — is what one public official called “a massive undertaking.”

But about four years after construction began — and 12 years after the humongous project was first proposed — the first 50 miles of pipeline is set to go operational before the first of next year.

In early October, tests were being conducted at a pump station between Waxahachie and Ennis with the goal of pumping up to 40 million gallons per day of additional water from Richland-Chambers Reservoir.

Most of the new pipeline, which is being used in addition to the existing pipeline system, is in Ellis County.

“It’s a big milestone. This is truly a regional project; it is a big step in that direction,” said Ed Weaver, integrated pipeline program manager for the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD).

TRWD was faced with the risk of falling short if more capacity was not added, said Wayne Owen, planning director for TRWD.

When it is completed in its entirety, possibly in 2035, the IPL will connect three water supply reservoirs — Lake Palestine, Cedar Creek and Richland-Chambers — to Benbrook Lake.

TRWD is responsible for building and operating the pipeline and will get 200 million gallons of water per day from the IPL, while Dallas will take 150 million gallons per day. With the agencies already providing water to more than 4 million people, the IPL will make it easier to serve growth.

But getting to this point hasn’t been easy — or cheap. One of the first things to do was buy the land for the pipeline. Despite some court challenges, by August 2018 all but 31 of the 517 parcels needed had been acquired.

Construction began in 2014, with immense trenches being dug to hold the pipeline, which varies in size from 84 inches to 108 inches in diameter. Three lake pump stations and three booster pump stations are being built to move the 350 million gallons of water per day through the line, and the equipment isn’t like anything you’ll see at Ace Hardware.

Southwest of Bardwell Lake near Ennis, for example, the world’s largest gate valve was installed. The 100-ton valve, which is buried underground, is four stories tall.

And while all the talk is about getting water from the three existing reservoirs, TRWD actually built a new one, albeit smaller, as part of the IPL. A “balancing reservoir” capable of holding 450 million gallons of water was created at a high point near Midlothian. The new reservoir has enough storage to allow cost-saving operations, such as pumping into the new reservoir at night and storing water there to reduce the costs of pumping it uphill through the pipeline during the day.

Saving on the utility bill is important. It is estimated that over the life of the project, the agencies will be able to save $1 billion in energy costs by sharing the system and pumping water through bigger pipes and during times when electrical rates are lower.

While happy to get the first phase finished, the real game changer will happen in 2020 when the Joint Cedar Creek No. 1 Lake Station is turned on, adding 220 million gallons per day of capacity to TRWD’s system.

A new master plan will determine exactly when the entire system will be completed. While the population in North Central Texas has grown 12-14 percent over the past seven years, peak demand for water has remained at 2011 levels.

The agencies don’t want to finance, construct, maintain and operate parts of the pipeline until they are needed. Through the end of August 2018, TRWD and Dallas had spent about $937 million on the IPL.

Article provided by www.trwd.com/news.

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