The latest information on the Texas drought shows slight improvement. Wichita Falls is now in the extreme drought status,a drop from the highest drought level. However, state climatologist's believe the drought could last through next year and some predict even longer. Wichita Falls residents want to know if city leaders are prepared if the drought continues.
Stephen Santellana comments,"I think we could be a little better informed about our contingency plan out in the future 20, 30 years down the road. What we look like if we run into a worse drought."
Stephen Santellana took voluntary measures this summer to save water, but said he did not stop watering all together. He watered his trees and bushes so they stayed alive in the scorching heat. Santellana said he lived in Wichita Falls during the 2000 drought and is still surprised. "Not new to us but something we didn't think we'd see this bad again at least for several more years."
The City of Wichita Falls knows Santellana is not the only concerned resident asking questions. Daniel Nix, Wichita Falls Public Utility Manager says the city is working proactively to help prolong from entering into stage two of its Drought Contingency Plan. He says the recent rain has helped, but we still need a significant amount of rain for water for restrictions to be lifted.
Nix comments, "As you drop those temperatures and you add some more humidity to the atmosphere and the winds die down, that evaporation rate does go down and water stays in the lakes a lot longer."
Right now Nix says the city has a water resource committee meeting monthly to evaluate all four stages of the Drought Contingency Plan. The committee is made up of six members who are appointed by city council. Their purpose is to look at the current drought plan and discuss how the city may better and make changes to it. Nix says at the moment,The Water Resource Committee is not hitting the panic button just yet. "We're going to see what the winter carries for us and if it gets to the point we do have to trigger a stage two."
During the winter months Nix says residents of Wichita Falls will consume a lot less water.
Specifically 10 to 12 million gallons of water a day. During the summer months consumption goes way up to 40 to 60 million gallons of water a day. Because the winter months are approaching and less water is being consumed, the city can focus more on how they can prolong entering into more severe drought levels. They can also focus on making any necessary changes to the drought contingency plan itself.
Nix comments, "If there are new things that can be added things that we've learned through a drought, we try to incorporate those into the drought contingency plan. It will become an overall better document."
The city has had the drought plan in place since the mid 80's. Nix says by state law, the drought contingency plan has to be updated at least every five years, but if needed can be updated yearly as well. The City of Wichita Falls last updated its plan in 2008. City leaders feel it has been working fine during this current drought. Their past changes to the plan came from lessons learned in the 2000 drought. He says some major changes to the plan included adding stage four to the drought plan. Another important change was building and bringing the city's Reverse Osmosis Water System on line. That added a new water source other than Lakes Kickapoo and Arrowhead.
Nix adds, "Lake Kemp we hadn't utilized before. Lake Kemp is a slightly larger lake with an extensively larger water shed. Its a lot easier to get water into that lake because the catch-man area extends over several counties."
The city is proactive in trying to accommodate its citizens as best as they can. He says they have been bringing all possible best and worst case scenarios to the drawing broad to figure out how to improve their approach.
Click here to see the most up to date lake levels.
We have broken down each stage of the drought contingency plan in detail.