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When you visit New Braunfels, Texas, you can feel how much the community cherishes its local waterways. Residents spend weekends tubing down the Comal River and hosting picnics at Landa Lake, which is fed by the pristine and protected Edwards Aquifer. However, word about New Braunfels’ thriving community is out; it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.
Stress from increased water demand, urbanization, and extreme periods of drought and flooding are putting the beloved waterways at risk. Further, the Comal River and Dry Comal Creek have become impaired due to high bacteria concentrations, primarily from overabundant local wildlife. New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) is leading the community in developing a plan to preserve and protect local water resources with a One Water approach.
Thanks to our longstanding relationships with NBU and the City, our experts have been embedded in the journey. The team’s familiarity with prior projects would be key to finding existing connections and complementary strengths that could be enhanced by a holistic One Water approach.
Such projects include a feasibility study led by Arcadis for ASR in 2011-12 to verify the viability of the brackish portion of the Edwards Aquifer as an ASR location. Arcadis subsequently permitted and designed a full-scale demonstration well and we are currently supporting NBU in performing cycle testing. We also developed the community’s first Water Resources Plan in 2018, which emphasized a holistic approach to evaluating alternatives to traditional water supplies, including conservation technologies, aquifer storage and recovery, and both direct potable and non-potable reuse. In addition, population growth and demand projection models helped outline ways to address risk scenarios.
Protecting the quality of water resources and the watersheds not only supports the physical health of a community by providing reliable supplies of drinking water, but also supports the socioeconomic health of a community by providing recreational and economic opportunities, supporting native aquatic and animal species, and minimizing localized flooding. Since 2015, we have been collaborating with the City of New Braunfels to develop, obtain funding for, and implement a Watershed Protection Plan for the Dry Comal Creek and Comal River Watershed. The plan characterizes pollutants in the watershed and summarizes best management practices from a diverse group of community stakeholders. The current focus is on public outreach and education. Our team continues to support development of educational materials and interactive programs on why a healthy watershed is critical to a thriving community, such as online educational games. Our team also created an interactive watershed visualization tool in the form of a GIS storybook. To help control pollution in the watershed, Arcadis biologists provided a non-native waterfowl egg coating program, and our engineers developed a structural stormwater Best Management Practices plan.
Our technical experts continue to provide a range of support services spanning across the One Water spectrum. These include continued tracking and evaluation of conservation strategies; evaluating NBU’s non-revenue water loss program, which includes use of satellite leak detection and advanced metering infrastructure; developing an Aging Infrastructure Plan for water and wastewater assets; designing new water supply infrastructure, including a surface water treatment plant expansion and wellfield expansion; leading distribution system water quality studies and water quality monitoring efforts; and assisting in the development of new service extension policies.
NBU and the City have been informally implementing One Water strategies and collaborating for years. However, NBU's recognition of the need to actively drive innovation led to the formation of a One Water Working Group, of which our One Water Practice Lead joined as an advisor in 2019. Establishing a holistic vision of how to safeguard watersheds, waterways and groundwater for future generations is creating new avenues to optimize capital investments, enhance innovation opportunities and form partnerships. With a One Water mindset guiding the way, water will remain a celebrated and protected feature of the New Braunfels community – no matter how large it grows.