• December 18, 2014

32 Texas suppliers face drinking water shortages

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 4:30 am

LUBBOCK — More than 30 small Texas public suppliers could run out of drinking water in 45 to 90 days as the state’s drought worsens.

No residents will go without water, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Wednesday, and if a supplier runs out, then water will be trucked in.

Most of the suppliers are located in rural areas or outside of large metropolitan areas, with the worst situations in West Texas — the driest of the areas affected by a yearslong drought. The commission estimates 11 water suppliers could run out in 45 days — affecting a total of about 8,600 business and residential connections. Another 21 suppliers could run dry in 90 days.

“The TCEQ takes an active role in assisting these water systems, from helping to secure new water supplies, reuse and conserve existing supplies, and working with other funding agencies in seeking resources for new alternative water supplies, treatment and infrastructure,” spokesman Terry Clawson said in an email.

The Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Water Development Board provided grants or low-interest loans to communities needing to fund projects such as drilling wells, moving intakes, or interconnecting with other suppliers.

Statewide, 387 public suppliers imposed voluntary restrictions on users while 778 announced mandatory restrictions. Killeen is in stage 1 of its conservation plan, and encourages residents to voluntarily limit water use.

Steve Kana, city director of water and sewer utilities, said stage 1 begins May 1 each year and runs through the end of September.

“As we all know, Texas has been in a drought for several years now. Water conservation becomes incredibly important during the months of May through September when people use the most water to irrigate their lawns and things like that,” he said in April. “It’s important, if we are going to help the drought situation, that we all do our part in conserving water.”

Drier than Dust Bowl

A lack of rainfall is to blame for most suppliers’ situations as Texas wades through a fourth year of drought. The situation is worst in West Texas, where some areas are now drier than the 1930s Dust Bowl.

January through April in Texas was the fifth driest on record, with just 45 percent of the normal 7.1 inches of rainfall, National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said Wednesday.

Those four months were just slightly wetter than the same time period in 2011, which ended up being the state’s driest year ever.

Reservoirs across Texas are 64 percent full, the lowest amount for this time of year since 1990. Normal for this time of year is 84 percent full. Locally, Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes are about 95 percent full.

Through Tuesday, many large cities also were well behind normal in rainfall for the year: Dallas is behind by 9.53 inches, Houston by 5.12 inches, San Antonio by 5.3 inches and Austin by 4.44 inches.

Relief could be on the way, though, as weather officials monitor an El Nino system in the Pacific Ocean that could bring wetter conditions later this year.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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