Final design of the plant is still under way. The firm is set to begin pre-construction activities.
The Austin City Council voted last month to move forward on the controversial project located on 92 acres in Northwest Austin along Lake Travis. Many of the city's conservationist groups say the plant is not needed. Supporters say the plant won't hurt the city's conservation efforts.
The city says the utility will rely primarily on gravity to distribute water rather than electric pumps, which will translate into 200,000MW hours of savings annually, producing 300 million gallons of water a day by 2014. MWH says it will aim for a minimum LEED-silver rating for the facility. The city says the plant's site, on a wooded hillside along Lake Travis in the Texas Hill Country, offers "opportunities for architectural design that are in harmony with the natural landscape."
Who is right? Perhaps that remains to be seen. The city's population is expected to increase by 500,000 people by the year 2040. The plant is expected to create some 3,000 construction jobs.
Meanwhile, ongoing water wars continue and drought remains a serious concern across the state. The San Antonio Water System filed suit this summer against the Lower Colorado River Authority over a water-sharing agreement gone bad. The LCRA has called the SAWS' claim for more than $1.2 billion a "meritless lawsuit" over a project that it determined "would not meet legislative standards." SAWS says the LCRA pulled the plug on a project that would have sent about 30 billion gallons of water from the Colorado River to the city for 80 years and challenges what it calls LCRA's "policy assumptions."