Report: With 2 weather extremes, Texans urged to conserve water

State & Regional

AUSTIN, Texas — If it’s not drought, it’s flooding. Texas is home to two extremes when it comes to weather and water experts are urging residents across the state to actively plan for the state’s future.
 
“It’s exactly what scientists have been predicting a long time with climate change – droughts will deepen, floods are going to get worse,” Tom Spencer, director of the Texas Living Waters Project, said. 
 
It’s what West Texans are currently experiencing. Christ Salinas, a resident of Abilene, was recently fishing in Lake Fort Phantom Hill.
 
“There’s a lot of fish,” he said. “There’s fish everywhere. It was looking pretty sad there.”
 
Frank Whitley, who lives near O.H. Ivie Lake, said the latest downpours have been the topic of conversation across town.
 
“It helps all economies, in the city, the towns, and the grocery stores,” he said.
 
Dr. Mark Wentzel, hydrologist with the surface water division at the Texas Water Development Board, said this September was the wettest September in Texas history, with data going back to 1895. Wentzel said there have also been improvements in the San Angelo, Midland, and Odessa areas. There have been improvements in reservoirs in those areas.
 
“In October, when the rains have kept coming for most parts of the state, what’s nice about that in terms of a water supply perspective is that we’re going to get some more runoff,” he said. “The ground is already wet so you’re not losing water from that rainfall to absorption by the scorched, dry ground.” 
 
But in Amarillo, farmers like Dave Artho have struggled during harvest season with having so much rain.
 
“[For the] cotton harvest, we had our prep on and we were ready to harvest,” he said. “Then it started to rain and you can see we’ve got a pretty good crop. We’d just like to be able to get it out of the field.”
 
Central Texas recently had extreme flooding and now Austin residents are under a boil-water notice as Austin water works to better stabilize its water treatment system.
 
“Reduce water use as much as possible,” Austin Water tweeted Thursday. “The more you conserve now the quicker we can stop boiling.”
 
Texas Living Waters Project just released a report called “Best Bets for Texas Water.” The report contains information related to water supply strategies and the current situation with the state’s water supply.
 
“In the future, there may not be enough water for our children and grandchildren,” Spencer said. “That’s the real tragedy of Texas water planning.”
 
Spencer says all Texans need to start conserving water.
 
“The Texas population is supposed to double in the coming decades,” he said. “Our water supplies are not going to double. They’re not going to increase over what we have today.”
 
Texas Water Development Board Chairman Peter Lake says local communities can prioritize what best suits their needs.
 
“In some cases, that’ll be a reservoir,” he said. “In a lot of other cases, that could be strategies that bridge the spectrum between flood and drought, which reservoirs do, and also conjunctive use, using surface water when that’s available, groundwater when surface water is not available and aquifer storage and recovery,” he said.
 
Spencer said the boil-water order has been a good reminder for Central Texans about how much water we all use daily and ways to scale back.

“The best water strategy we can develop is taking advantage of the water we have,” he said.

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Water Conservation Status

Standard Conservation

San Angelo is in standard conservation, which restricts outside watering to once every seven days at no more than 1 inch per week. Runoff of more than 150 feet down any street, gutter, alley or ditch is prohibited.

Report watering violations by clicking on https://www.cosatx.us/departments-services/water-conservation/report-a-water-violation or calling 325-657-4409. Do your part; be water smart!