By TYLER MASK
Although the current drought is not record breaking just yet, it doesn't mean it's not extremely severe. City Manager Lance Howerton said at Tuesday night's Mineral Wells City Council meeting that Mineral Wells, as the water stands at this moment in Lake Palo Pinto, has 400 days.
After this point, the city could be forced to draw directly from the Brazos River, which would be a less than optimum procedure.
“If the water supply doesn't recover this year, the city will have to pump more of the Brazos River water into the plant, which is going to require a different treatment,” Mineral Wells Director of Public Works Kelly Jones said. “The cost of it is going to be a lot more.”
In 2009, when the outlook was similar, the city looked at pumping from Lake Mineral Wells only to find that it would not be cost effective. But with things the way they are, the city must make their move against mother nature.
“With very little rain being predicted for the upcoming spring season, we need to implement Stage III of the Drought Contingency Plan,” Jones said.
Stage III will go into effect on April 1. But even when the plan goes into effect, it will only extend the supply to 500 days, as Lake Palo Pinto is hovering right around 30 percent capacity, Jones said.
For now, the city intends to start blending Brazos River water with Lake Palo Pinto water at the Brazos Pump Station site, which was done successfully in 2009 at a rate of two to one.
“We are monitoring the lake level on a daily basis and currently calculating an average drop of 3/8 of an inch per day, which will increase to 5/8 of an inch in the summer,” Jones said.
If the water supply drops to a 180-day capacity, the city will be forced to move into Stage IV of the Drought Contingency Plan. Consequently, the city will have to start pumping more Brazos River water into the Hilltop reservoir, which could account for 100 percent of the water supply if things continue to run dry.
The water conservation measures to be implemented are as follows:
• Initiate mandatory conservation measures, where possible.
• All “non-essential water use” shall be prohibited between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. “Non-essential water use” is defined as washing windows, siding, eaves and roofs of buildings; washing driveways, streets, curbs and gutters; non-commercial vehicle washing; unattended irrigation of sprinkler lawn watering of landscaping, shrubs and grass; draining and filling swimming pools; and flushing water system. Hand watering of landscaping, shrubs and grass shall be permissible on any day subject to the “time-of-day” restrictions established herein.
• All “non-essential water use” to include unattended irrigation or sprinkler lawn watering shall only be permitted once a week. The schedule for days in which “non-essential water use” is permitted is as follows by property location:
• Addresses/Customers west of US Highway 281 (SW and NW sections) may use water for outdoor uses on Saturday.
• Addresses/Customers east of US Highway 281 (SE and NE sections) may use water for outdoor uses on Sunday.
• Businesses requiring water as a basic function of business such as nurseries, commercial car washes, laundromats, high-pressure water cleaning services, bulk water sales, etc., will obtain written permission from the city manager or his/her designee(s) for intended use.
The following policy shall govern enforcement of outdoor residential water use restrictions effective April 1, 2014:
• First Violation: Verbal/written warning.
• Second Violation: Fine up to $500 per occurrence.
• Third Violation: Discontinuation of water service.
The city will begin blending water from the Brazos River in the middle of May. The mixture will be 20 to 30 percent Brazos River water. Brazos River water contains a higher chloride (salt) content than the water citizens are used to, so the water may have a slightly different taste. Nevertheless, all water will be up to State and Federal drinking water standards.
For now, everybody is in the same boat, which is about to be beached if things don't go as planned.
“Your cooperation in this effort is greatly appreciated,” Jones said on behalf of the city.
For more information, contact the City of Mineral Wells Public Works Department at 940-328-7777.