NEWS HEADLINES

Water situation shaky going into summer

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, May 31, 2014

Although North Texas has enjoyed some cool, rainy weather lately, the blazing summer days that lie ahead are still on everyone’s mind.

Water is sure to remain a precious commodity.

Recent rain has, at best, slowed the drop in Lake Bridgeport’s water level – and unless they’re on a well, Lake Bridgeport is where most Wise County residents get their water.

As of Thursday, May 29, the lake was 22.23 feet below its normal conservation pool level – nearly five feet lower than a year ago. The lake is 41.6 percent full.

“Of course we do not like to see Lake Bridgeport this low,” Mark Olson, conservation and creative manager for the Tarrant Regional Water District, said this week. “It’s one of the lowest levels we’ve seen, going into the summer. It’s definitely a major concern.”

TRWD, which sells the lake water to cities and utility districts, imposed Stage 1 watering restrictions June 3 last year. Those restrictions are still in place.

Basically, they require:

  • no outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.;
  • landscape watering no more than 2 times a week;
  • repair leaks and drips quickly;
  • no hosing off of buildings or paved areas;
  • home vehicle washing only with a hand-held bucket and a hose with a positive shutoff nozzle;
  • reduce the frequency of draining and refilling swimming pools.

In Decatur, the city restricts watering to the hours between midnight and 8 a.m., and specifies that customers with addresses ending in an even number may water only on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday while those with addresses ending in an odd number may water on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday.

In Bridgeport, landscape watering is limited to twice a week, and outdoor watering with sprinklers or irrigation systems is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Water customers with even-numbered addresses can water on Wednesdays and Saturdays, while those with odd-numbered addresses can water on Thursdays and Sundays. Apartment complexes, businesses, parks, etc. may water only on Tuesdays and Fridays.

CONSERVATION DOES HELP

Olson said conservation efforts throughout TRWD’s service area have had a significant impact on water use over the past several years as the drought has deepened.

“Last year, the water savings [through conservation] was close to 100,000 acre-feet,” he said. “That’s about the amount we pull from the West Fork watershed on an annual basis.

“We’re talking about conserving enough water that it’s about like we’ve added another reservoir. We’re using water conservation as a water supply strategy.”

Olson put together a model that projects water demand based on several factors including average soil moisture, the number of 100-plus degree days, summer rainfall amounts – even employment.

“We are able to predict demand with a high degree of accuracy, based on historical water use, then build a model going forward to project what demands would be, and compare that with actual demand,” he said. “The difference is attributed to conservation.”

Water savings in 2007 was 9.78 percent compared to projected demand. For the next four years, it stayed under 10 percent.

But in 2011 – as drought conditions worsened but the economy began to pick back up – water savings jumped to 13.8 percent. The next year it rose to 21.6 percent and last year, the savings was a whopping 32.3 percent.

That means in 2013, water use in the TRWD service area was 32.4 billion gallons less than projected, due to conservation measures.

“It’s a huge impact,” Olson said.

Conservation is impacting Lake Bridgeport, too – slowing the rate at which the lake is falling. But only runoff from significant rain will refill the lake.

“Based on what people are seeing on Lake Bridgeport, they think there’s probably not much conserving going on, but that’s not really the case,” Olson said. “In reality, we’re seeing water use go down.

“We’re just not getting the rainfall in that watershed that we need for that reservoir to recover.”

WATER CONSERVATION TIPS

Cities, TRWD and other organizations like the Texas Water Smart Coalition have plenty of tips to help people conserve water.

The water district created the character, “The Lawn Whisperer” for a multi-media campaign to advise people not to over-water their lawns. Olson said as a general rule, you can water twice a week or less and your lawn will be fine.

“We encourage people to put their irrigation system on manual control,” he said. “Keep them off unless they’re needed.”

TRWD offers weekly watering advice on their Facebook page, taking into consideration water conditions during the previous week – things like transpiration loss and rainfall. It advises people on whether or not they need to water, how much and how long.

“It’s based on climate conditions,” Olson said. “This week, for instance, people’s systems should be off, because of the rain.”

In general, he added, two 12-minute water cycles a week will deliver a quarter-inch of rain for those who have rotor-type sprinklers. For those with sprayers, the cycles need to be only six minutes to deliver adequate water.

Stage 1 watering restrictions are fairly moderate and should still allow for green yards, but Stage 2 restrictions could very well be on the way this summer if there’s no significant rainfall.

Stage 2 – which limits landscape watering to once a week and limits water use for dust control, pools and fountains – kicks in if water storage in the TRWD system gets down to 60 percent of capacity.

Right now the system is at 70 percent overall, with the East Texas reservoirs at 75 percent and the West Fork reservoirs at 51 percent.

WATER SMART TIPS FOR YOUR LAWN

Follow these simple tips to help conserve water at your home or business:

  • Water in the morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler, to minimize evaporation.
  • Check outdoor faucets, sprinklers and hoses for leaks periodically.
  • Adjust your lawn mower up at least one notch. A taller lawn holds moisture better.
  • Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalk.
  • Keep grass nourished with fertilizer so it is better able to recover from drought stress.
  • Keep weeds out of your green spaces. Weeds are notorious for stealing water from other plants, so if you’ll keep their population in check, you won’t have to water as often.
  • Adjust your watering schedule each month to match seasonal weather conditions.
  • Set a kitchen timer when watering your lawn or garden to remind you when to stop.
  • Wash your car on the lawn, and you’ll water your lawn at the same time.
  • Recognize signs of dry grass. Avoid watering until you can see footprints left in the lawn as you walk across it.
  • Install a rain sensor on your irrigation system so it won’t run when it’s raining.
  • Aerate your lawn at least once a year so water can reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
  • Use a licensed irrigator annually to check your sprinkler system for leaks and keep sprinkler heads in good shape.
  • Retro-fit your existing irrigation system with new water-saving technology like bubblers, low-angle or other water conservation options.

(See more at: wcmess.com/lawntips)

WATER SMART TIPS FOR YOUR GARDEN

Follow these simple tips to help conserve water at your home or business:

  • Use a layer of mulch on the surface of your planting beds to minimize evaporation of moisture and suppress weed growth that competes with water.
  • Water only when plants look like they need it. Most plants die from over-watering, not under-watering.
  • Water your plants deeply, but less frequently, to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.
  • Use watering cans, whenever possible, especially when watering just a few patio plants.
  • Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses for shrubs and trees to reduce evaporation and apply water directly to roots where it’s needed.
  • Next time you add or replace a flower or shrub, choose water-conscious plants adapted to your area.
  • Use a rain barrel or buckets to capture rainwater from your downspouts for use in watering your garden.
  • Keep plants nourished with plant food so they’re better able to survive drought stress.
  • Choose shrubs and groundcovers for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.
  • Keep a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up or runs. Use this water to water plants.
  • Re-route gray water (from your clothes washer or dishwasher for example) to outdoor areas to use for irrigation.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to help eliminate water overflow.
  • Use a trowel, shovel or soil probe to examine soil moisture depth. If the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water.

(See more at: wcmess.com/gardentips)

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