30 November 2023

Project InFocus: Harris County MUD 578 Water Supply and Storage Facility

Project Overview

EHRA Engineering, in collaboration with Friendswood Development, embarked on an imperative journey in February 2023 with the initiation of the Harris County Municipal Utility District 578 (HCMUD 578) Water Supply and Storage Facility project. The scope of this project was all-encompassing, aiming to construct the first phase of a water supply and storage facility catering to a 320+ acre single-family residential tract in Harris County, Texas.

EHRA's involvement began with preparation of a preliminary site layout, providing confidence to the client that the site could meet their design and aesthetic goals. EHRA also ensured the site could accommodate a future expansion to the plant, leaving space for an additional well and tanks.

EHRA then designed a 500 gallon per minute vertical turbine water well, a 130,000-gallon bolted galvanized ground storage tank, a 15,000-gallon welded hydro-pneumatic pressure tank, three 650 GPM booster pumps and a meticulously laid-out piping system to provide efficient water distribution. Infrastructure components included a fiberglass building housing the disinfection system, the water plant electrical system and a chain-link fence with a double-swing gate. The diesel generator with an automatic transfer switch provides reliable power backup in case of an emergency.

The initial stages of the project, although they presented some challenges, were particularly crucial in determining project parameters, expectations and deciding the optimal size and location for the water plant. Location was fundamental to adhering to regulations from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the City of Houston (COH) and Harris County (HC). Simultaneously, accommodating the client's desire for a tree buffer within the site added complexity, as did the proximity of the wastewater treatment plant, which imposed specific layout constraints.

Innovative Solutions and Technological Integration:

EHRA's commitment to innovation shone through in various stages of the project. The incorporation of the 30' tree buffer, in response to the client's desire for a green impact, required creative solutions. Multiple exhibits were generated to visualize different layouts, and a clearing plan was meticulously designed to minimize disturbance while preserving existing trees within the buffer zone.

Another novel approach in this project was the addition of a cattle gate at the driveway entrance. This gate is designed to deter illegal dumping that may otherwise occur in the secluded access road. This feature allowed EHRA to reduce the fencing cost and increase the size of the tree buffer.

EHRA utilized Vehicle Tracking software in AutoCAD to ensure the drivability of the facility's entrance for typical water plant vehicles. EHRA’s leveraging of this technology provided both efficiency and functionality.

Client Focused and Cost-Effective Measures:

The pivotal milestones of the project were rooted in EHRA's commitment to understanding and addressing client needs. Client meetings provided a forum for discussing critical project aspects, including site layout, cost savings, delivery lead times and power requirements. EHRA's team, led by Valerie Lara, EIT, Thomas Arnold, PE and Paul Anderson, PE, adeptly navigated the client's preferences, contributing to effective decision-making and streamlined communication. Sarah Davidson expeditiously drafted up the plan changes and created beautiful exhibits.

The client's emphasis on reducing both immediate and long-term costs prompted extensive discussions. EHRA, in collaboration with the electrical engineer, presented designs that strategically identified items for potential postponement to future phases. This proactive approach not only contributed to cost reduction but also streamlined the project timeline.

Multidisciplinary Coordination:

The success of the HCMUD 578 project relied heavily on EHRA's internal collaboration with its own various practice areas. The Facilities team orchestrated the overall project, with Land Services playing a pivotal role in determining water piping routes, interdistrict connectivity and addressing site drainage. Simultaneously, Construction Phase Services ensured the project bidding was successful and that it was primed for construction.

The bid, conducted in September 2023, culminated in a successful $3.85 million offer, paving the way for the imminent commencement of construction. Pending final approvals and contract signings, EHRA is ready to bring the HC MUD 578 Water Supply and Storage Facility to fruition.

From the intricacies of regulatory compliance to the nuances of client interactions, each phase contributed to professional growth for many of the young engineers and technicians involved. Initial challenges, such as determining the correct site size and navigating regulatory constraints, were met with a collective commitment to learning and adaptation.

EHRA's role in the Harris County Municipal Utility District 578 Water Supply and Storage Facility project exemplifies a holistic and client-centric approach. From the details of site layout to the strategic integration of cost-saving measures, EHRA's commitment to excellence shines through. As construction gears up to commence, the project highlights EHRA's ability to navigate challenges, innovate in design and deliver a facility that seamlessly integrates with both the natural landscape and the client's vision. The HC MUD 578 project is not just a water facility; it is a testament to EHRA's dedication to shaping a sustainable and efficient future for communities in the Greater Houston region.