Broussard may soon wean itself off water from the city of Lafayette, ending what has been an uneasy contractual relationship between the two cities.
Broussard, which now buys water wholesale from its larger neighbor, is moving forward with a project to drill three large water wells that are set to be completed next year, city officials announced Monday.
With the new wells, the city’s water system is expected to have the capacity to serve up to 25,000 residents, more than twice the city’s current population.
“This is really about trying to prepare for future growth,” Broussard spokeswoman Amy Jones said.
Monday’s announcement comes about two years after a water dispute between Broussard and Lafayette landed in court when Lafayette accused Broussard of diverting millions of gallons of wholesale water without paying for it.
Broussard’s existing water wells do not produce enough water to serve the entire city, so Broussard relies on wholesale water purchased from Lafayette Utilities System, which is owned by the city of Lafayette.
LUS officials alleged in September 2011 that a bypassed meter on a wholesale water connection had allowed millions of gallons of water to flow undetected from LUS lines into Broussard’s water system, meaning the smaller city was reselling water that it was receiving for free for about five years.
Broussard officials, who maintained they didn’t know of the bypassed meter, paid a $825,587 water bill to LUS under protest but then sued to recover much of that payment, arguing that LUS had overestimated the amount of water.
The lawsuit ended with a settlement in which Broussard agreed to pay a water bill of $550,000 and then receive a credit of $275,587.
The episode highlighted Broussard’s dependency on water from Lafayette — an uncomfortable reliance considering the neighboring cities have often been at loggerheads over disputed annexations in southern Lafayette Parish.
Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais said in Monday’s announcement that the three new water wells should allow Broussard to produce enough water for its own consumption.
Broussard has just begun the process of digging test wells.
Assuming the chosen sites are viable, the permanent wells are scheduled to be complete by May .
The city estimates the test wells and permanent wells will cost about $4 million.
Jones said the city has been discussing the possibility of the new wells for several years to meet the demand of “unbelievable, unprecedented” growth.
According to the most recent census estimates, Broussard saw its population grow nearly 13 percent from 2010 to 2013, rising from 8,343 to 9,382.
Jones said the city currently has 1,300 new residential lots on the market or soon to come on the market.