Texas has long been a land of drought. Now that more people are relocating to the state, thanks to a strong economy and the promise of jobs, counties must look for new ways to satisfy the water needs of their burgeoning populations.

The San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) is doing precisely that with its latest project, the $191-million Surface Water Facilities, being built on and adjacent to Lake Conroe in Montgomery County, just north of Houston.

This project is part of the county's Ground Water Reduction Program (GRP), which is valued at roughly $450 million to $500 million, says Fitz O'Donnell, on-site project manager for McCarthy Building Cos.

"The overall GRP consists of not only the surface water facility plant but also includes transmission lines running to Conroe, which is just to the east, and to the Woodlands, which is to the south. There are approximately a dozen construction contracts, predominantly transmission lines," O'Donnell says. McCarthy is building the intake structure off Lake Conroe as well as the treatment plant facility and the high-service pump station, which distributes water to those locations. "Then we deliver water basically to the property line and other construction contracts take it from those points forward to the end-receiving facilities," he says.

The treatment plant, which is being built on a 100% greenfield site and will serve 70% of the county, will have an initial treated water capacity of 30 million gallons a day. It is designed for expansion up to 120 mgd. The intake will be sized for 120 mgd and can withdraw water from Lake Conroe at multiple levels.

Also included is a treated surface water pump station sized for future capacity, with a pump building, eight pumps, two 7.5-million-gallon ground storage tanks and instrumentation, control and SCADA systems.

Making it possible

The GRP is the largest program ever funded by the Texas Water Development Board. Plus, the Surface Water Facilities project is one of the largest municipal projects in Texas to utilize the construction manager at-risk (CMAR) delivery method, and it is SJRA's first project to utilize CMAR. It's also the largest public works project ever attempted in Montgomery County.

"SJRA is very fortunate to have a forward-thinking board of directors," says Ron Kelling, SJRA's deputy general manager of operations. "Historically, SJRA utilized design-low-bid-build for all projects. SJRA staff proposed and the SJRA board approved the use of the CMAR method to deliver the surface water plant. To date it has worked out tremendously well."

McCarthy serves as construction manager, working with HDR Engineering Inc., which designed the treatment plant; AECOM, which designed the high-service pump station; and Freese & Nichols Inc., responsible for the raw water intake and pump station.