Water supply worries in Garland County

Leaders all over Garland County are worried they're using too much of their water supply. Officials are looking into other options with a multi-million dollar plan that could cost those who live out in the county even more money. Water customers in Garland County get their water from Lake Ricks and the Ouachita River. But since 2010, Hot Springs and Garland County have exceeded the state-mandated maximum amount of water they can take from those two places numerous times. A crowded meeting with Hot Springs city officials was held at the convention center Thursday night to hear a detailed presentation on where their water could come from in the future.Leaders are looking into various options for future supply: Lake Hamilton, Lake Ouachita, and DeGray Lake. The preferred option for county officials is DeGray Lake. County leaders say it's the water quality, cost, and the fact that DeGray Lake would also provide a redundant water supply from a separate watershed. DeGray Lake is congressionally-authorized for water supply, while Lake Ouachita is not. "DeGray Lake, we've concluded, is the most economical source of water," said Hot Springs City Manager David Watkins. Currently, for those who live outside the city limits of Hot Springs, they pay one and a half times more for water than city residents. With the move to another water supply, they could be paying even more. After construction and distribution cost, officials estimate the total project could cost between $70.5 and $80.5 million. The new water supply initiative could cost water customers an estimated 10 dollars or less per month for the average user. "What concerns DeGray to me is the long term pumping cost and what that's going to cost the rate payer in the future," said Rick Davis, Garland County Judge. Officials are considering putting the water treatment plant on the south side of Lake Hamilton. The full project could take five years with the goal to have it completed by January 2018.