Water restrictions likely on the way for North Texans

Posted Tuesday, May. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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At the Wise County Park on the northeast tip of Lake Bridgeport, some of the coves where water normally stands more closely resemble a cow pasture.

In other spots, isolated puddles are suitable for ducks, but little else.

“It’s pretty dang low,” said Blake Carter of Bridgeport as he returned from a morning of fishing Tuesday. “But if your boat is small enough and you know where to go, you can still find some fish that are biting.”

While fisherman like Carter may be worrying about having enough water to get on the lake, which is 16.75 feet below capacity, the dropping lake levels also signal something much more serious for Tarrant County residents. Unless some heavy rains come in the next week or two and add water to Lake Bridgeport and other lakes that supply water for the Tarrant Regional Water District, water restrictions are likely returning.

The water district, which supplies raw water to 98 percent of Tarrant County, currently has an overall capacity of 76 percent. When it drops to 75 percent, that will automatically trigger Stage 1 restrictions, which limit outdoor watering to twice-a-week. Currently, outdoor watering is restricted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

“We’re preparing for it as if it’s going to happen,” said Mary Gugliuzza, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Water Department. “We’re getting banners, promotional materials and yard signs ready.”

The West Fork of the Trinity River, which feeds both Lake Bridgeport and Eagle Mountain Lake, two of Tarrant Regional Water District’s water supply reservoirs, is seeing dry conditions this spring that are comparable to the drought of record.

Eagle Mountain is slightly more than 5 feet below capacity, but it is supplemented by water sent by pipeline from the water district’s East Texas reservoirs. Lake Worth, which is downstream from Eagle Mountain, is currently 2.78 feet below full.

“Right now, the West Fork is mimicking the drought of ’56,” said David Marshall, engineering services director for the water district. “From the standpoint of recreation on the West Fork, it’s probably not going to be very good this summer unless we get some rain.”

Dallas/Fort Worth Airport has recorded 4.49 inches since March 1, which would rank as the fourth-driest spring on record if the area gets no more rain during the rest of May.

Most of state in drought

In a report released Monday, the Texas Water Development Board said 98.5 percent of Texas was still in drought conditions with 13 percent in exceptional drought, the worst classification. Statewide, reservoirs were 66 percent full, 11 percent less than the same time a year ago. And water supply issues may become a more serious problem this summer.

“Generally, the further west you go, the drier it is,” said state climatologist John Nielsen Gammon. “We heard about water supply issues in 2011 but this year it’s going to be in different places, especially in West Central Texas. But it’s not just there. We’ve already got water restrictions along the Rio Grande and the Wichita Falls area has been having some difficulty.”

Rain chances are returning Wednesday — a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms — but while many areas may see a few raindrops, it’s unlikely to start filling area lakes.

“It’s not expected to be a soaker,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Shoemaker. “We’ve got another slight chance toward the end of the weekend but we don’t see anything significant over the next week or week and a half.”

Marina owner optimistic

At the North Side Marina on Lake Bridgeport, the perception of low water is one of biggest battles they fight, said Jeanne Kennedy, who runs the marina with her husband.

“Yeah, we got water, we got docks, we’ve got boats ... it’s more people’s impressions,” Kennedy said. “Everybody drives across the (U.S). 380 bridge and sees how low it is. But this lake is 60 to 70 feet deep in some places. Normal around here is 10 to 12 feet below the conservation level so we can handle this. That’s what you get when you’re the top lake in a system that provides drinking water to Fort Worth.”

Kennedy said the lower lake levels have impacted private docks around the lake and some homes don’t have any water in front of them. Some homeowners have also moved their boats inside their marina.

The marina’s 10 rental cabins are sold out this weekend for a wedding but Kennedy said some potential vacationers may be holding off on making reservations.

“I think some people are waiting to see what happens in July, wondering how much water we’ll have,” Kennedy said. “But every time somebody calls we’re telling them we got water and we’re optimistic we’ll have enough throughout this summer.”

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna

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