Don't Take Rural Water

As a retired engineer in Dallas I am very interested in these schemes to rob other Texas areas to satisfy the desires of water users in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Now, your article "Deep in the Heart of Texas" states the proposal to rob the Amarillo-Lubbock area of its groundwater (ENR 2/16 p. 14). The water table there has been lowering due to necessary farm irrigation.

The state of Texas needs these rural areas as well as their municipal areas. A way must be found to supply the municipalities with their necessary water without further disturbing our rural areas.

The first necessary step is water conservation. Lawn sprinkler control should begin earlier, while our reservoirs have a reasonable storage volume because we always use more water than the sky gives us during the summer and late spring. A graduated water rate possibly could be enacted so that excess water users would pay more than economical users.

The next step needs to be developed. The largest storage volume of water available for use is our depleted aquifers. Too often water overflows our reservoirs to eventually replenish the Gulf of Mexico. It is hard to determine how much water would naturally flow into these aquifers from the impounded lakes if wells would be drilled.

Environmental problems may develop in recharging aquifers with raw water. However, the alternatives currently presented are much more hazardous to the environment.

Commissioning Is Needed

In the Viewpoint column, "Don’t Farm Out Commissioning," Thomas Gormley makes a pitch for better cooperation between owners, designers and contractors in order to build quality buildings (ENR11/17/03 p. 55). Once we have such quality buildings, the piece explains, we won’t need independent third-party commissioning. As an example, the column describes a company project where in-house engineers diagnosed and fixed a malfunctioning boiler, thereby avoiding the extra cost of commissioning. (The stated avoided cost of commissioning of $1.00 to $2.00 per sq ft is about double what we get here. Maybe we should open an office in Nashville.)

Having been an engineer on the owner’s side of the fence for about half of my 30 years in facilities work, my experience has reflected Cedric Truman’s studies showing that commissioning returns about three times its cost in avoided in-house staff repairs in the first five years of a new building’s life (1989 and 1983, ASHRAE/NCBC). Like Mr. Gormley’s staff, my staff certainly spent their share of hours fixing problems left over from the conventional construction process. But what I want to know is this: How does Mr. Gormley get his staff to work for free?