City of Edmond contractors are constructing a number of water projects around the city that officials believe will sustain the city’s expanding water needs as the city grows over the next 50 to 100 years.
The three largest Edmond water projects on the city’s docket include a new water intake structure, a water treatment plant and a wastewater resource recovery facility. These projects have been discussed for years as part of a water and wastewater master plan that the city created in 2013 and updated in 2019.
“Every growing city has to address expensive water needs at some point,” Edmond City Councilman Josh Moore told NonDoc. “I’m thankful that Edmond’s vision has been ahead of the curve and we’ll be ready for many years to come.”
Completing these three projects is currently projected to cost the city upwards of $460 million, according to the city’s public and capital improvement projects map tool. That would make this round of water system upgrades the largest public works project in Edmond’s history.
“We’re convinced that this is the best decision at this time, and for the greatest reasons of — we need it,” Moore said in a YouTube video posted on the city’s YouTube channel regarding the city’s water improvements. “The faster we make this decision and invest in this new infrastructure, the faster we can start paying this off and be ahead of the curve as far as creating new infrastructure for our growth.”
Inflation poses problems for Edmond water projects
Amid rising inflation, bids on the three Edmond water projects came in about 30 percent higher than projections, said Kris Neifing, the Edmond Public Works Authority’s director of water resources. That left city officials with tough decisions to make.
“(There were) definitely difficult conversations, but it’s more about how do we make this happen and minimize the impacts to our customers,” Neifing said.
Additionally, these improvements are intended to allow Edmond to gain water independence from Oklahoma City, where the city purchases water from during periods of high demand.
During an April 11 meeting, the Edmond City Council discussed locking into loans on these water projects amid rising interest rates. Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis spoke to the importance of gaining water independence from the City of Oklahoma City, even mentioning a previously proposed partnership with OKC to build a water line from Atoka through Edmond. (That proposal ultimately fell through.)
“Our original plan, years ago, was to work with Oklahoma City and build a pipeline from Atoka up to here, and Oklahoma City hasn’t been kind to us on their charges for water. Currently, we buy water from them, and it’s a pretty hefty charge,” Davis said. “This is going to allow our town to have our independence of water. We don’t have to rely on Oklahoma City for water, which in the long run is going to be painful, but it’s going to be a benefit for our community.”
In April, the City of Edmond was approved for three loans totaling more than $268 million in funding for water infrastructure projects through the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Two of the loan requests, totaling $185 million, are financed by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. (Another $1 million of the loan will come from loan forgiveness.) A third loan totaling $83.2 million is funded through the Financial Assistance Loan Program. Those loans will be paid back over a 30-year period through water and wastewater use charges, according to a press release from the OWRB.
Joe Freeman, chief of the OWRB’s financial assistance division, calculated that the Edmond Public Works Authority’s customers will save a combined estimation of $9.9 million over the life of the three 30-year loans compared to traditional financing, according to the press release. Freeman said the projects the City of Edmond are undertaking are “pretty massive.”
“We’ve provided a little over $5.8 billion in financing for water and wastewater. So yes, this is a big amount, but it takes a lot of money to do water and wastewater projects,” Freeman said.
Along with bond revenues, those three loans will fund Edmond’s three large projects and a few smaller water projects, including a replacement water tower near 33rd Street and Broadway, a water line along Danforth Road and the drilling of more than 20 wells across the city.
Project costs and anticipated completion dates
The city’s slated water intake structure — which pumps water from Arcadia Lake to the water treatment plant — will cost the city $66.4 million and is expected to be completed by February 2026. For construction on the project to begin, the city needs to send the contractor a notice. City officials anticipate the notice will be issued Aug. 1.
Edmond’s current Arcadia Lake water intake structure can only pump 12 million gallons of water per day, Neifing said. The new water intake structure will be able to pump 30 million gallons of water per day from Arcadia lake to the treatment plant, and if the city were to “swap out pumps later on,” the city would have the capacity to pump 65 million gallons of water per day in the future, Neifing said. A new low-lift pump station will be constructed as part of the project.
Because Edmond’s current water treatment plant does not have the capability to expand, a new water treatment plant is being constructed south of the current facility, which is located at 801 S. Post Road in Arcadia. The new treatment plant started its first of three construction phases in August 2020, and it is anticipated to be entirely completed in 2028.
The first phase of the project — which is set to cost more than $38 million and is expected to be completed by November — will increase the water treatment plant’s handling of solids and allow spent lime from the treatment process to be used for agricultural purposes. It also increases the electrical infrastructure redundancy and resiliency for the plant.
The second phase of the water treatment plant project is set to cost more than $190 million and is anticipated to be completed by February 2027. The second phase of construction will implement new ground storage tanks, a high-lift pump station, site power distribution and other components.
The third phase of the treatment plant, which is expected to be bid out at the end of 2023 and could possibly bring the total water infrastructure upgrade cost to more than $500 million, will cover the main treatment components of the water plant.
The water resource recovery facility — which cleans up wastewater before sending it to Coffee Creek and the Deep Fork River — is set to cost more than $171 million and be completed by July 2023.
The new water resource recovery facility will have double the wastewater treatment capacity of the current facility, taking that capacity from 6 million gallons of water per day to 12 million.
Wells, water line and water tower on tap
On top of the three main projects the city has under construction, more than 20 water wells also are planned to be drilled across the city at the cost of $9.6 million. The first nine are expected to be finished by December 2022, with no anticipated completion date for the other wells.
After the water wells and the new water treatment plant are fully constructed, the City of Edmond will have the ability to pump a total of 40 million gallons per day to Edmond citizens, Neifing said. About 30 million of that will come from the plant, while about 10 million will come from the water wells.
Additionally, a $9 million water line is planned to be constructed along Danforth Road from the existing Danforth water tower to the University of Central Oklahoma area. Once the water line is completed, the old water towers on Danforth Road and College Avenue will be torn down.
A replacement water tower for the current water tower near 33rd Street and Broadway is currently under design and is set to cost the city $7 million. The tower will be able to hold 2 million gallons of water, and will be similar in design to the towers on Danforth and Coffee Creek Road.