As the 2011 Drought continues, lake levels across Texoma continue to drop. Many cities are scrambling to come up with options, as the source of water literally evaporates away. In Vernon, however, city officials are seeing a rise in the supply of water. That good news for water customers comes from bad news for agricultural producers.
According to Vernon Public Works Director Bob Cochran, the aquifer that supplies Vernon is in good shape. "At the present time, we are pretty much holding our own. We're in the Seymour aquifer and the north part of Wilbarger County is where we draw all of our water from, the major part of our water from," he said.
Like most of Texoma, Northern Wilbarger County has been hit hard by the drought. Many farmers have given in to the situation and given up on this year's crop. "A month or so ago, most of the farmers in north Wilbarger County started shutting down their pivot systems because the hay was burning up and the cotton got declared a disaster, a lot of it did," he said.
That shutdown of irrigation netted a rise in water levels in the aquifer. "We actually saw a little bit of an increase in the aquifer level when they started shutting those pivot systems down," said Cochran. There are still some producers using irrigation, but Cochran says many are stopping.
The good news goes beyond city limits. "We supply not only the City of Vernon, but also Oklaunion, Lockett, the Waggoner Ranch and the Red River Authority - which turns around and sells it to customers in Wilbarger County," said Cochran.
To make sure the production levels stay up for the nearly 14,000 people who rely on the Vernon system for water, the City installed an additional emergency well this summer. "Its helped us maintain - or not go to another stage of the drought contingency plan," he said.
Cochran said the people of Vernon have been doing an excellent job of conserving water. The hope is that – along with the decreased agricultural demand, will make sure water keeps flowing until hopes and prayers for rain are answered. "We need some rain to replenish that aquifer," he said.