With the drought expected to continue through this winter, area officials said most residents and businesses have complied with twice-a-week outdoor watering restrictions.
And while officials in the water district that serves cities north and east of Dallas say they may have to increase restrictions soon, no such moves are expected in Tarrant County.
When the watering restrictions went into effect at the end of August, there were complaints of people watering on the wrong days. Those have dropped dramatically as residents began to understand the watering rules.
Fort Worth and Arlington have largely been reluctant to lock out irrigation systems or take violators to court, contending that most were resolved before it reached that stage.
"Our goal is not to carry a big stick; it's to gain compliance," said Mary Gugliuzza, the Fort Worth Water Department spokeswoman.
In Fort Worth, 2,269 cases of residents or businesses watering on the wrong day were reported between Aug. 30 and Nov. 30. Of those, 1,293 were reported in September.
Ninety-three cases went to the second step, in which residents received a written notice of violation, but none were taken to the final and most extreme step where their irrigation system was locked out or a citation was issued.
"We can't take any enforcement action without one of our people witnessing the violation," Gugliuzza said. "If that person contests, we need someone who is going to testify to what they saw. We would also have photo evidence, video evidence or some other sort of evidence to document the violation."
In Arlington, the city received 573 complaints between Aug. 30 and Nov. 30. Of those, 51 received advisory letters and one resulted in a Class C misdemeanor citation.
"The vast majority have complied," said Michael Thomas, a code compliance officer.
In Southlake, where water restrictions began a month earlier than in other Tarrant County cities, 347 citations had been issued by mid-October, city spokeswoman Pilar Schank said. Those citations could result in fines of $352 or higher from a municipal court judge. Schank didn't have information about how many were eventually fined by the court.
Through mid-October, Colleyville issued 310 warnings and 15 citations, according to Star-Telegram archives.
A mixed forecast
The Tarrant Regional Water District, which is the raw water provider to 98 percent of Tarrant County, said the overall capacity of the district lakes climbed from a low of 67 percent in November to 70 percent by last week.
Water district officials hope the recovery of the region's water supply has begun. La Niña, which tends to bring drier-than-normal weather, is expected to persist, but David Marshall, the water district's engineering services director, is optimistic it won't be as severe as last year.
"We think we'll see some more improvement through winter and spring," Marshall said.
But Marshall's optimism is not shared by the National Weather Service, which said both short- and long-range forecast models predict a return to drier weather.
"The recent above-normal precipitation episode is likely not to trump the overall effects of La Niña through the winter," said weather service meteorologist Jason Dunn. "A return to warmer-than-normal and drier-than-normal conditions appears to be more likely than staying in this active weather pattern."
Only a tiny 0.01 percent of Texas, in Red River County, is not abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday.
About three-quarters of Tarrant and Dallas counties and part of Wise County are abnormally dry. But the southern parts of Tarrant and Dallas, and the western part of Wise are in moderate drought conditions, along with 98 percent of the rest of the state. Of that portion, 32 percent is in exceptional drought.
Staff writer Terry Evans contributed to this report.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698