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Fort Worth puts off watering-restrictions vote

FORT WORTH -- With two council members opposed to making twice-a-week watering restrictions permanent, the Fort Worth City Council decided Tuesday to take more time on the issue.

The Dallas City Council has already voted to keep the restrictions in place, but the Arlington City Council tabled the idea last week after meeting resistance from some residents.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, along with the mayors of Dallas, Irving and Arlington, has been promoting a regional approach to water conservation, but some council members aren't convinced.

Price said her correspondence is running 7-to-1 in favor of permanent twice-a-week watering restrictions, but Councilman Danny Scarth and Mayor Pro Tem W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman said their feedback has been negative.

"I think there are some real issues with this other than just philosophical," Scarth said. "People's lives don't always work well around two days a week."

A presentation from the Tarrant Regional Water District and the Fort Worth Water Department laid out the long-term benefits of water conservation in delaying the construction of a $2.3 billion pipeline to bring more water from East Texas. But Scarth said he wants more information about the restrictions' effect on water rates.

"I'm also having a little bit of a hard time with us saying we're saving money but our rates are going up," Scarth said.

In response, Frank Crumb, head of the Fort Worth department, said his office will study how city revenue will be affected if less water is sold.

Price said she wants to hear more from the public and to ensure that the city does its "due diligence."

Decision's impact

The watering restrictions enacted in August because of the drought were set to be lifted June 1. But the water district may reconsider that date now that permanent restrictions appear to be on hold.

Councilman Jungus Jordan asked why similar restrictions cannot be enforced against the oil and gas industry, which has historically counted for about 1 percent of overall water usage.

Jim Oliver, general manager of the water district, said that it is considered industrial use and that water providers cannot single out one industry.

The water district's presentation showed that twice-a-week watering restrictions are projected to reduce usage by about 4 percent.

Also, according to the district's presentation, the Metroplex's population is expected to double by 2060, so new water sources will be needed. But, Oliver said, the district must demonstrate to the state that it is using the "highest practicable water conservation" before transferring water from one river basin to another.

The current long-range supplies identified for the region include the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in Northeast Texas and the existing Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Texas-Louisiana border.

The water district's lawsuit against Oklahoma to divert water from north of the Red River has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Oliver said it may be up to a year before the district learns whether the case will be heard.

Whatever Fort Worth decides is significant for the entire region, because the city has 30 wholesale customers that would be contractually required to follow its lead on restrictions.

They include Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Southlake, Hurst, Burleson and Crowley.

Bill Hanna,

817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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