DFW lakes see small rise from rainfall

Lake Palo Pinto, shown earlier this month, benefitted little from this week’s rains. It is still below 9 percent and could run dry by July 1.
Lake Palo Pinto, shown earlier this month, benefitted little from this week’s rains. It is still below 9 percent and could run dry by July 1. City of Mineral Wells

While last week’s rainfall was far from a drought-breaker, it did buy time for some area communities.

For most of Tarrant County, there was enough runoff into the four main Tarrant Regional Water District supply lakes to add several weeks’ worth of water.

And for a couple of water-starved small towns west of Fort Worth in Palo Pinto County, it also staved off the chance of actually running out.

“We’re better off than we were on Wednesday — we probably got another month or two out at our lake,” said Kenneth Epperson, water superintendent for Gordon, about 65 miles west of Fort Worth.

Before last week’s soaking, Gordon, population 475, estimated it had enough water to make it through Feb. 15.

This year has gotten off to a wet start, with Dallas/Fort Worth Airport registering 3.08 inches of rain, which is 1.65 inches above normal.

The increases for most area lakes weren’t as dramatic, but most saw a small rise.

“It looks like overall most lakes went up over a tenth of an inch — every little bit helps,” said Steve Fano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

Avoiding Stage 2

For most water customers in Tarrant County, there was enough runoff into TRWD’s two East Texas reservoirs — Cedar Creek and Richland-Chambers — to push the overall supply above 62 percent.

That’s critical in avoiding Stage 2 once-a-week outdoor water restrictions. If lake levels dip to 60 percent capacity, it would trigger those tougher restrictions.

Without any more rainfall, those tougher restrictions would probably be about two months away, but David Marshall, TRWD’s director of engineering and operations support, remains hopeful.

“I don’t think we’ll fill the lakes, but I think we’ll avoid Stage 2,” Marshall said.

Other water watchers aren’t as optimistic.

“We have to plan as if we’re going to get there,” said Fort Worth Water Department spokeswoman Mary Gugluzza. “It was a good amount, but we’re going to need a lot more to avoid reaching Stage 2 this summer.”

Fort Worth sells water to 29 entities, including Keller, North Richland Hills, Southlake, Hurst, Burleson and Aledo.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s eight- to 14-day outlook shows above-average chances of rain through Feb. 5 for most of Texas. And forecasters say there appears to be another good chance of rain toward the end of next week.

But the center’s long-range outlooks show drought remaining across the western half of North Texas through April. Parts of Tarrant County and points to the west remain in exceptional drought, the most serious category. The latest report was compiled before Wednesday and Thursday’s rainfall.

While the rain benefited lakes east of the Metroplex, areas to the west were more hit-and-miss.

Western lakes

While Gordon saw more than 2 inches of rain at its C.B. Long reservoir, the amount that fell at Lake Palo Pinto, 13 miles to the northeast, was far less.

Lake Palo Pinto, which provides water to Mineral Wells and several smaller communities in Palo Pinto and Parker counties, rose slightly but not enough to really help since it is now below 9 percent of being full.

“We’ve got such a small surface area that it might give us a day or two of water but that’s about it,” said Scott Blasor, secretary-treasurer for the Palo Pinto County Municipal Water District No. 1, which owns the lake.

The Palo Pinto District is working to have a reverse osmosis plant ready to take water out of the Brazos River before Lake Palo Pinto runs dry, which could happen by July 1.

Another Palo Pinto town, Strawn, which has about a 10-month supply of water, has been working with Gordon and the neighboring town of Mingus to find a long-term solution to its water woes.

But Strawn City Secretary Danny Miller said the cities’ plan to search for groundwater has been delayed since the state is requiring all of the entities to combine their emergency grant applications.

So this week’s rainfall was vitally important to give those towns more time.

“We're not really going to know if it's a done deal for two or three months,” Miller said.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna