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Officials: Tarrant area lakes' evaporation no cause for concern

On Monday, when the temperature hit a boiling 105 degrees, 139.3 million gallons of water at Eagle Mountain Lake and Lake Benbrook evaporated into thin air.

In terms Olympian Michael Phelps might understand, that’s enough water to fill 210 of the pools where he plans to win additional gold medals in Beijing next month.

Don’t panic, though.

Officials at the Tarrant Regional Water District say conservation efforts adopted by many area cities over the past two years are saving about 90 million gallons a day (that would be 136 Olympic-sized pools, by the way) leaving lakes and reservoirs at 94 percent of their maximum storage capacity.

"Our demands are high, but not at record levels," said Dave Marshall, engineering services director at the Tarrant Regional Water District. "The program is working far better than I anticipated."

The water district owns four reservoirs -- Cedar Creek, Eagle Mountain Lake, Lake Bridgeport and Richland Chambers -- and pumps water into and out of Lake Worth, Benbrook Lake and Lake Arlington.

Increased demand for water -- 530 million gallons on Monday -- and the lack of rainfall since May have forced the lake levels to drop. By Tuesday morning, Eagle Mountain was down about 2 1/2 feet, Lake Arlington 5 feet.

"The tap was turned off in May, that was our last good rainfall," said Marshall. Add in the 10 days of three-digit temperatures we’ve experienced in the last 11 days, and things dry out pretty quickly. "I mean, my place is crispy."

But things could be worse.

Starting in 2006, the water district began to aggressively push water conservation; convincing many of the 75 cities it serves in 10 counties to adopt measures such as restricting the use of sprinklers between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when the evaporation rate is the highest.

Marshall is also convinced that North Texas residents vividly remember the droughts of 2005 and 2006, which were devastating events.

"That saves about 30 percent through evaporation. ... The use of water is not as high as you would imagine," Marshall said.

Things also look good for the future. While North Texas is currently in a moderate drought, the forecast is for potential improvement because the area is coming out of a La Nina cycle into a neutral cycle, he said.

La Nina is where sea surface temperatures off the Pacific Coast of South America are colder than normal. La Nina tends to bring drier than normal winters to the Southern United States.

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