FORT WORTH -- With the city setting a water use record for June, the Tarrant Regional Water District, which supplies raw water to more than 90 percent of Tarrant County, is warning that mandatory watering restrictions may be enacted in less than two months.
Barring a heavy rainfall that reverses a drought that is worsening across North Texas, water district officials say Stage 1 restrictions, when customers can water only twice a week, will likely begin by the end of August or the first week of September.
Under the district's drought plan, the first stage of mandatory restrictions is reached when the district's water supply drops to 75 percent of capacity. On Tuesday, that figure was 84 percent.
"It all depends on rainfall, but right now I'm expecting us to reach those triggers," said David Marshall, engineering services director for the district.
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The district's systemwide water use for June was below the all-time record of just over 13 billion gallons, set in June 2006. But Fort Worth set an all-time June record of 8 billion gallons, eclipsing the 7.8 billion gallons used in June 2006.
Fort Worth is one of the district's primary customers.
Since December 2007, Fort Worth has had year-round 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. watering restrictions as part of its water conservation plan following Arlington’s lead. Almost all Tarrant County cities now have daytime watering restrictions in place all year.
Fort Worth's June totals include 26 of its wholesale customers, including Keller, Hurst, North Richland Hills, Richland Hills, Southlake, Westlake, Westover Hills and White Settlement.
Part of the increased total can be attributed to population growth, but Fort Worth Water Department officials said the water conservation message needs to reach more residents.
"It's the temperatures that are really the big driver, but I think we have to continue to try and educate people about effectively and efficiently watering," Water Department spokeswoman Mary Gugliuzza said.
Fliers were sent out in Fort Worth's June water bills to educate customers about what days they can water under the Stage 1 restrictions. Officials are also urging consumers to increase water conservation before the mandatory triggers are reached.
But there's little indication the drought will change.
The June 28 drought monitor showed most of Texas in extreme and exceptional drought, except for a small pocket of North Central and Northeast Texas.
The Climate Prediction Center's three-month outlook for July through September doesn't give much hope. It shows above-normal temperatures and equal chances of wet or dry conditions for North Texas.
Historically, July and August are the second- and third-driest months of the year for North Texas.
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is 3.5 inches below normal for precipitation since Jan. 1, but as the ground keeps baking, it will take significant downpours to refill area lakes.
"It's going to take several inches of rainfall to get us out of this long-term drought," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Dunn.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698