Water is a hot topic in Texas. The executive summary of the Texas State Water Plan describes the problem bluntly: “In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses and its agricultural enterprises.”
The office of the Texas Comptroller has published a report saying the current drought holds the record for the worst single-year Texas drought since record keeping began and may prove to be one of the most devastating economic events in the state’s history. If water supply needs can’t be met, it could cost Texas businesses and workers $116 billion in income by 2060.
Even after the welcome rainfall over the Labor Day weekend, prospects still look grim. Summer weather in the Lone Star state is expected to be hotter than ever, with climatologists saying average Texas temperatures during the hottest summer months are now 2.8 degrees higher than in 1984 and still rising.
And along with the heat comes related news of water shortages. A number of recent news articles have focused on Texas towns running out of water. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, there are currently 32 Texas municipal water systems in danger of running out of water in less than 90 days and 11 in danger of running out in less than 45 days.
To see the at-risk water systems, go to the website of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at www.tceq.texas.gov/drinkingwater/trot/droughtw.html. On the site, the severity of the water shortage is indicated by an E (for emergency) for water systems with 45 days of water left and a P (for priority) for systems with 90 days of water left at the time of the report.
Luckily, Stephenville is in much better shape than any of the municipalities on the TCEQ list. It has no water restrictions at this time and none are envisioned.
Mark Kaiser, Stephenville’s city administrator, says, “The city is asking for voluntary conservation by its citizens – for people to be conscious of the situation and to be very water wise. We have plans in place to go to Stage 2 or more if necessary, but a lot of that is dependent on how citizens respond with voluntary actions.”
Kaiser explains that Stephenville has 30 production wells, supplemented with an average addition of five to eight percent surface water, mostly from Lake Proctor.
With respect to what would cause the city to become concerned about impending shortages, he says, there is a number: Four million gallons of production a day.
“If we do that [pump four million gallons a day] for a few consecutive days, maybe 3 to 5, it would trigger action. The highest usage we’ve seen so far has been 2.7 to 2.8 million gallons a day and we are averaging about 2.0 million gallons a day.”
Asked what Stephenville has done right to keep us from being in the same spot as some other Texas municipalities, he says we’ve done great planning.
“The professional staff we hired to manage the water system, as well as the previous City Councils made it a priority. It was their foresight years ago – making the hard decisions years ago – that has kept us from being in that position. It took a lot of vision and hard work to diversify our water sources and also to be very efficient and be good stewards. We don’t over pump. We allow the wells to recharge. Previous city leaders had the foresight to make these investments and we’re very blessed those decisions are paying off.”