Drought in Texas July 2012

A special e-newsletter about dealing with the Texas drought

Local water suppliers continue to deal with drought consequences

By Kathy Wythe

Lake Travis, August 2011The 2012 rains have eased the 2011 drought for most of Texas—at least for a while. Cities and water supply systems, however, are still dealing with consequences of the driest year on record for Texas. And with the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook predicting the drought to persist or intensify for all of Texas except for East Texas through October 2012, these communities must continue to carefully manage their supplies.

Spicewood Beach— the small community near Austin that ran out of water in January—and three other community water suppliers are on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) emergency list of possibly running out of water in 45 days or less as of July 18, 2012. Eight more suppliers are on the 90 days list and seven are on the 180 days list.

According to the commission’s weekly report to the Texas Drought Preparedness Council, more than a thousand public water systems out of 4,699 active community water systems are still enforcing some type of water use restrictions.

Voluntary water use restrictions have been issued by 410 systems, with 600 systems applying mandatory restrictions. According to TCEQ, almost 30 systems are prohibiting all outdoor water usage.

At least one city, however, has lessened water restrictions on its citizens.

On July 16, Austin lifted its Stage II water restrictions of limiting watering to once a week, transferring to Stage I of watering twice a week. According the city of Austin’s news release, this decision came "after our region experienced wetter than expected conditions this past winter and spring, leaving the combined lake storage volume of Travis and Buchanan above the 900,000 acre-feet Stage II trigger.

"Returning to a two day per week watering schedule will provide relief for customers concerned about trees, as well as other landscape investments, as we head into the hottest part of the summer," the release said.

In May, the Tarrant Regional Water District terminated its Stage 1 watering restrictions for the cities it supplies water to, including Fort Worth and Arlington. Most of those cities then lifted the restrictions for residents. Irrigation or watering of any lawn or landscape is still prohibited between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.  

Dallas passed an ordinance in April that makes the restriction of twice-weekly watering from sprinklers permanent.

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