It's been a while since rainfall helped raise area lake levels, but last weekend's downpours did the trick.
The Tarrant Regional Water District's six supply lakes received an influx of about 9.8 billion gallons, roughly 1 percent of its water supply. The district supplies water to 98 percent of Tarrant County.
"At least we're seeing some water coming into the streambeds," said David Marshall, engineering services director. "We're hoping things are headed in a positive direction."
But Marshall cautioned that there is a long way to go. The district's overall supply is at 68 percent of capacity and still needs a lot of rain just to get out of Stage 1 watering restrictions. The twice-a-week-irrigation limits took effect in August, when the supply fell to 75 percent of capacity.
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Marshall estimates that it would take 10 more rainfalls like last weekend's for the restrictions to be lifted and 25 to fill the lakes.
Meanwhile, officials welcomed the news that water consumption has plummeted with the return of cold weather.
On Tuesday, the water district's customers used 171 million gallons, about as low as daily usage gets. That is far less than the 592 million gallons used on a peak day last summer.
The rain raised Lake Arlington 1.7 feet, but it is still 6.26 feet below the conservation level, at which it is considered full.
Benbrook Lake, on the other hand, rose about a foot over five days but is still nearly 12 feet below conservation level.
The Climate Prediction Center offers some hope over the next several weeks, predicting above-normal precipitation through December. But the three-month outlook still shows La Niña conditions pushing North Texas into a second year of drought.
Forecasters said that there is a chance of rain next week but that it's too early to say how much.
"Typically when you have a drought of this margin, it's really unlikely one rain event would have that much impact," National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Huckaby said. "The problem is we have such a massive deficit."
Most of North Texas remains in a moderate drought. Some areas are improving, but areas south of the Metroplex face more serious conditions.
"Whether it's one category or the other isn't too important," Huckaby said.
A second straight La Niña winter gives the area "a slightly better probability" of seeing a third one next year. That's exactly what North Texas experienced during the 1950s, when a record drought hit.
"Really our hope is we get enough spring rainfall to get some growth of our vegetation and to fill up our reservoirs," Huckaby said. "If you don't get some serious hydrological gain next spring, next summer is going to be difficult."
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698