Panhandle success story: Amarillo's Potter County Wellfield December 2012

Amarillo's Potter County Wellfield provides 70,000 residential connections

Like a number of communities around Texas, Amarillo has been faced with a dwindling water supply. The city hadn't drilled a major wellfield since 1956, and Lake Meredith served as one of the city's major water sources.

Lake Meredith is now 0.0 percent full.

So where does Amarillo get its water today? From the recently completed Potter County Wellfield, a project that was funded, in part, with more than $86 million in financial assistance from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).

"The Potter County Wellfield was designed to eliminate near- and mid-term reliance on Lake Meredith," says Amarillo City Manager Jarrett Atkinson. And it's done just that: today 20 miles of collection lines, a pump station and 18 miles of transmission line transport groundwater to city residents through about 70,000 connections.

The Potter County Wellfield is just the first step in bringing water to Amarillo. "We were able to underspend as a result of the favorable bids we received," says Atkinson. The city is using the remaining funds to construct a combined high service and transfer pump station at the Osage Water Treatment Plant. "This high service pump station is the nexus that brings groundwater to the system at different points in town, providing a safe, adequate, redundant supply that moves water where and when it's needed."

Discounted interest rates tied to the TWDB-provided funds had a tremendous effect on Amarillo residents. "Those savings were directly passed to consumers. Those with small properties or on a fixed income especially benefited-we were able to set up a rate structure they could afford," Atkinson reports.

Most importantly, a reliable source of water is important to the city's economy in the long term. Amarillo is a semi-arid regional trade area, with the next large city, Lubbock, 120 miles away. "Lots of small communities rely on us. We're not a metroplex; we need to stand on our own," Atkinson says. "Economic development is key, and it's tied to the availability of water. The support of the Potter County Wellfield Project gives us more advantages to sell."