Rain helps North Texas lake levels — a little

The last two days of rain soaked parched yards all over North Texas, but did little to help fill area lakes or relieve the drought.

Light rain and drizzle were expected to end Wednesday afternoon, and dry autumn days are ahead, meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth said Wednesday.

In the past 24 hours, an average of an inch of rain fell on 46 counties in North Texas, according to the Weather Service.

Eagle Mountain Lake, Lake Bridgeport and Lake Worth all rose a few inches from the rains, which was good news, but the drenching did little to replenish Tarrant County's water supply.

"It's probably about three days worth of water," said David Marshall, engineering services director for the Tarrant Regional Water District, which provides raw water to about 98 percent of Tarrant County.

Eagle Mountain Lake and Lake Bridgeport are both on the West Fork of the Trinity River, which has had its driest conditions since the 1950s — so any inflow of water is viewed as a positive sign.

The TRWD's two East Texas lakes, Richland Chambers Reservoir and Cedar Creek Lake have been keeping things afloat.

"Definitely without a doubt it's been the driest on the West Fork since the '50s," Marshall said."If we weren't pumping water in from East Texas, it would be much lower."

TRWD's overall capacity is at about 63 percent. If the combined lake levels dropped to 60 percent, once a week outdoor watering restrictions would be triggered.

The water district projects that even if it doesn't rain any more, those tighter restrictions wouldn't happen until February.

Marshall said he believes there will be enough rain this winter — with an El Nino projected to develop — to get some increase in lake levels over the next several months.

But it likely won't happen quickly. This time, ground was so dry most of the rain soaked in.

"The land was so weary it needed to regenerate," Marshall said. "We may see some water get into stock tanks in rural areas but the flow in creeks and streams has been really small, really slow."

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Clay Church agreed.

“Several days of steady rain would get the lake levels up,” said Church in the Fort Worth office of the corps of engineers on Wednesday in a telephone interview. The corps of engineers manages Benbrook, Grapevine, Lewisville and Joe Poole lakes. “These rains will help some.”

Once this rain moves out Wednesday afternoon, dry conditions are projected to return for the next week.

That’s not good news for Mineral Wells and other parts of Palo Pinto County where they’re in a water crisis. The last two days of rain raised the water level at Lake Palo Pinto only three inches, and the lake has only 12 to 13 feet of water left. The lake is the main water source for Mineral Wells.

“We’ll be out of water by June,” said Mineral Wells mayor Mike Allen on Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Allen said Mineral Wells is still planning on adding a pipeline to Lake Mineral Wells, which currently isn’t being used as a water supply, and using reverse osmosis to filter nutrient-rich water from the Brazos River.