Terry Kelley

Terry Kelley told Keene Chamber of Commerce members that Johnson County’s drinking water supply is going to have to increase if it is to keep with expected growth in coming decades. 

Texas has a drinking problem. While the state is patting itself on the back for being a growth magnet and outperforming the rest of the nation in creating jobs some Texas residents are sipping treated water from their city’s sewers because their reservoirs are dry from years of drought. 

If the state is going to grow, Texans is going to have to figure out how to meet its water needs. 

That was the message from Terry Kelley, general manager of the Johnson County Special Utility District, to the Keene Chamber of Commerce at its Thursday meeting. 

And, he said, the growing cities of North Texas can’t solve their problems by simply sticking another straw into the aquifers beneath them. 

“You can’t sustain the growth of Johnson County with well water,” Kelley said. “Our ground water supply is just slowly going down. The discharge is much greater than the recharge is.”

That’s why the district has taken on projects such as the 30-inch pipeline that brings millions of gallons daily to customers in Johnson County. 

Bill Guinn, Keene’s city administrator, told the chamber members that the utility district has made difference for his residents. 

Keene, like Joshua and Lillian, is served exclusively by the district; Keene now has access to one million gallons of water a day, thanks to a nine-mile-long, 30-inch pipeline the district brought in.

“His organization has made tremendous inroads to provide water for this area well into the future,” by bringing in water from Lake Granbury, Guinn said.

But Texas’ recent efforts to buy water from Oklahoma have failed, even though Texas proved that Oklahoma cannot grow enough to take advantage of its water capacity.

Building new reservoirs is expensive, time consuming and politically fraught. 

But, Kelley said, “money can solve it.”

Roy Robinson seconded that. He was mayor of Keene when the city was working to resolve its water problems. 

“We know that growth is planned for this area,” Robinson said. “We probably need to be thinking about new sources. 

“And like he said, bring money. If you don’t have money, forget it. Expensive water is better than no water.”

Big state faces big needs

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