The recent cold snap filled the streets with ice and snow, but it didn’t make a long-term dent in the current drought, according to the National Weather Service.
Mansfield was among the North Texas communities hit by the cold, but like the rest of the region, it’s still lacking in water.
“We were actually categorized as an exceptional drought, which is the highest drought category put out by the U.S. Drought Monitor. That started in October of 2014,” said Jennifer Dunn, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We did have some temporary relief with the weather, and went down to extreme drought in January (of this year), before going back up to the exceptional level in February.”
The recent precipitation brought it back down to extreme. The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies a D3 Extreme Drought as “Major crop/pasture losses, widespread water shortages or restrictions” and a D4 Exceptional Drought as “Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses, shortages in water reservoirs, streams and wells that create water emergencies.”
Reservoirs used for Mansfield water did receive some temporary relief, according to Joe Smolinski, director of Water Utilities for the city of Mansfield. The city receives its water from the Richland-Chambers, Cedar Creek and Benbrook reservoirs and all water is treated at the Bud Ervin Water Treatment Plant.
“The precipitation didn’t really help with the drought, but it did help the lake levels (reservoirs). Right now we are sitting at about 73 percent to 74 percent in the network of lakes we get our water from,” Smolinski said. “The immediate thing the snow did is to hold off more water restrictions.”
The long-term recovery for the region isn’t an easy fix, according to Dunn and Smolinski. The past four to five years have been tough, Dunn said, and the region has been classified as below normal.
“We have had months close to normal or average precipitation, but in the long run, between October of 2010 and through February (of this year), we are still running at about 40 inches below normal levels,” Dunn said. “It’s going to take a lot of consistent raining periods, a lot of them. Sometimes we may get some tropical storms late in the summer that move through the Gulf and up through Texas, but even then it’s just a few extra inches, not enough for the long run.
“To make up 40 inches, it won’t be made up in a month or even a year, it’s a multi-year (effort),” she said.
The average precipitation for Mansfield from October to January is approximately 7.5 inches. From October of 2014 to January, Mansfield has only received 3.77 inches.
“No matter how you look at it, we are four and in some places five inches down from where we should be at this time of year,” Smolinski said.
To help with water conservation and effort, Mansfield residents are encouraged to follow city water conservation efforts.
“I need the people to primarily focus on outdoor watering. Don’t water more than twice a week, because if we reach the next stage we will restrict it to once a week,” Smolinski said. “If anyone has questions about how to water their lawn, they should call us and we will send out an irrigator. That service is free to anyone in Mansfield, and we will show you how to help save money and water when it comes to your yard.”