Reservoirs low despite rains

News
Nov 15, 2013
by WLJ
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Though many reservoir levels were recharged in the last few months, some remain at critical levels and may soon mean hard choices for municipalities, according to a water specialist with the Texas Water Resources Institute and reports from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

While Central, East and even the Coastal Bend regions have seen large improvements to reservoir levels, parts of the North Central, Far West, West Central, Southwest and Panhandle regions are still suffering water issues, said Allen Berthold, a program specialist with the institute.

In some cases, the available water supply is measured in months and severe usage restrictions are in place, Berthold said.

“When I talked to county commissioners in the Wichita Falls area last week, I was told some cities had approximately 180 days of water left at current usage levels,” he said.

The commissioner’s court planned to supplement reservoir levels with wells, but the overall effect on long-term supplies will be minimal, Berthold said.

On Nov. 9, the city entered stage 4 drought restrictions, which included a “total ban on outdoor watering and an internal audit of business water usage,” Berthold said.

According to the Texas Water Development Board, overall, monitored reservoir levels were about 62 percent full as of Nov. 13. But the average is skewed by reservoirs generally being in fair to good shape east of U.S. Interstate 35. Many reservoirs in West Texas remain critically low. The O.C Fisher Reservoir near San Angelo was only 3.4 percent full on Nov. 13; the Twin Buttes Reservoir, empty; Millers Creek Reservoir in North Central Texas, 17.4 percent full; and Abilene Reservoir, 6.3 percent full.

Dallas and Fort Worth have seen some relief in recent months, Berthold said. Long range planning by the North Texas Municipal Water District in water conservation and new supply systems are hoped to offset losses from the drought and the quarantine of Lake Texoma because of zebra mussel infestation.

For cities and rural towns not so fortunate to have a plan and funding in place, some help may be in sight, Berthold said, as Texas voters approved Proposition 6, which allowed the transfer of money from a rainy day fund. The plan proposes to reduce borrowing costs for municipalities to build and enhance water projects during the next 50 years.

The water resources institute is a part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. — WLJ

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