Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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March 14, 2014

How low can they go?

Area lake levels reflect serious drought

By TYLER MASK

tmask@mineralwellsindex.com

 

It doesn't take a scientist to interpret the meaning of current local water levels. With Possum Kingdom Lake at 64.3 percent capacity and Lake Palo Pinto at a striking 26.2 percent capacity, according to Water Data for Texas, Palo Pinto County has been in a drought for some time.

 

This time last year, PK Lake was at 71.9 percent capacity and Lake Palo Pinto was at 58.6 percent capacity. To say things are getting worse might be an understatement.

 

Nevertheless, a combination of a lack of rain – the biggest contributor – and consumption play into such low levels.

 

“From the Brazos River Authority’s point of view, the drought has basically caused lower reservoir levels to occur as the water supply stored in PK and the remainder of the BRA system of reservoirs evaporates or is used by municipalities, industry, agriculture and mining interests and is not refilled due to a lack of rain,” Brazos River Authority Public Information Officer Judi Pierce said. “In some cases, as the reservoirs decline, the intake systems used by those pulling water supply may require modification to continue service.”

 

Consequences of a drought include negative impacts on agriculture, ranching and recreational activities. While it may be sad that locals and vacationers may be inconvenienced by boat ramp closures, the agricultural economy as a whole has been suffering for years now. A study conducted by the Texas Agrilife Extension Service concluded that losses in the agricultural industry were 7.62 billion in 2011.

 

Although the drought of the 1950s remains the worst drought on record, many reservoirs throughout the state are at record lows, including some in the Brazos basin, Pierce said.

 

The BRA system currently has 72 percent of total capacity of water supply available for people to consume. If the drought continues, it might be necessary to implement drought contingency plans. As a result, locals will be required to ration their water usage.

 

“The drought conditions will only improve with rain,” Pierce said. “There is a potential for improvement with news of a possible El Nino weather system in the Pacific. However, there is no way to know if this pattern will continue or if regular spring weather conditions will occur.”

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