With last week's heavy rain filling some area lakes, the Tarrant Regional Water District has reached a threshold where it could consider lifting water restrictions, but the district's top official is hesitant to do so.
Long-range forecasts show that dry conditions could persist into spring, possibly setting the stage for another hot, dry summer.
"I want to make sure if we come out of it, we're going to be out of it for a long time," district general manager Jim Oliver said Monday. "We're not there yet."
Last week's rain brought the overall supply in the district's reservoirs to 82 percent, a dramatic surge from the 67 percent at the end of November. But two East Texas lakes, Richland-Chambers and Cedar Creek, are still more than 4 feet from being full -- and they account for more than 80 percent of the district's supply.
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The raw-water provider is polling its wholesale customers on keeping the restrictions, but its largest wholesale customer, Fort Worth, said Monday that it supports the "decision not to lift restrictions at this time."
The Fort Worth Water Department, which sells water to 30 communities including Hurst, Southlake, North Richland Hills and Burleson, said one goal is to prevent misunderstandings.
"It's confusing to customers going in and out of restrictions and makes compliance a lot more difficult," said Fort Worth Water Department spokeswoman Mary Gugliuzza. "The other side of it that it is still winter and the needs for watering for your landscape are extremely low this time of year."
While the concerns of customer cities will be heard, Gugliuzza said they are required by contract to follow the same restrictions as Fort Worth.
Arlington, which is also a water district customer, expressed support for keeping restrictions until Richland-Chambers and Cedar Creek recover more, said Julie Hunt, director of Arlington Water Utilities.
Tough rules continue
Just as the drought of 2006 prompted tougher rules, the current drought could have a similar impact.
Water district officials want to talk about twice-a-week outdoor watering rules becoming part of the permanent conservation plan, said Linda Christie, the district's community and government relations director.
Fort Worth officials haven't taken a position on the issue, but Gugliuzza said, "It's been mentioned as a possibility for further discussions."
Arlington officials also said they would consider twice-a-week watering as part of the water plan.
"I think we're willing to talk about it," Hunt said.
While North Texas benefited from last week's rain, other parts of the state still have further to go, said Jerry Cotter, water resources branch chief for the Fort Worth District of the Army Corps of Engineers.
The recent downpour has led many to think that La Niña, the weather phenomenon associated with drier winters across Texas, is going away. But the long-range forecasts show that isn't likely, and lower-than-normal precipitation is predicted for February through March.
"We've had La Niña the last couple of months but there have been some other things that caused us to be wetter than normal," National Weather Service meteorologist Jesse Moore said. "While those events helped override the drier-than-normal pattern we typically see with La Niña, we are still expecting drier-than-normal weather into spring."
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698