As soon as lake levels drop to 30 percent, we'll hit Stage Four water restrictions and that's where Wichita Falls' drought plan ends. If the drought continues, the city will be forced to add a Stage Five.
Daniel Nix, the Wichita Falls Public Works Operations Manager, said "We are just in the preliminary planning stages for a potential stage 5. Our drought plan does not have a stage 5 in it, but as we anticipate lake levels dropping. We figured we needed to put a Stage Five together."
Water use in homes has already been restricted as much as it can be by stages 1-4. The city will have to expand its restrictions to local businesses.
Nix said, "I suspect what the Water Resources Committee will do is pull a report of where the water is being used inside the city commercially...then group those, say restaurants, hotels/motels and apartment complexes [to] see where the larger amounts of water are being used and then [determine] what types of regulations could be applied to those industries."
If Stage Five is added to the drought plan and does go into affect, our local businesses will be forced to use less water.
"I'm curious to see what else they can tell me to cut. I mean to be open. You have to have water for certain things. I have to be able to wash and sanitize my dishes. I have to be able to keep a functioning restaurant that is health department approved," said Owner of the Deli Planet, Rebecca Rutlegde.
Rutledge has already taken extraordinary steps to save water. Her restaurant has gone from using 60,000 gallons of water each month to only using 40,000 gallons.
Rutledge said "We went to a soaking process. We have a bucket that we soak [the dishes] in... to get that food really loose and to be able to rinse it quicker...we also started selling bottled water. We encourage anybody who comes in and wants water to drink to go ahead and buy a bottled water and save the local resources."
She even bought a dehumidifier to collect water, so she could water her plants. Rutledge believes all Wichita Falls' businesses need to do more to conserve water.
Rutledge told Newschannel 6, she'll try and implement any advice that the city would give her on how to save water.
The city will take extra precautions before it officially adds Stage Five to its drought plan.
Nix said "When we do a stage revision or when we want to change the restrictions, we form a task force... so just using restaurants as an example. If we wanted to start looking at restricting restaurants, because no one on the resources committee is a restaurant owner. We would bring in professionals from the restaurant industry in Wichita Falls to say what can the restaurant industry do to help us out with this drought."
The city understands how big of an impact these restrictions can have on our local economy. It doesn't want to be responsible for shutting down any industries and businesses. The city just wants to make sure water will always be available.
Even if our lakes drop to dangerously low levels, Wichita Falls cannot stop supplying water to wholesale customers. Texas Law would prevent the city from doing that. Wholesale customers depend on Wichita Falls for its water supply. Archer City, Olney, Red River Authority, Wichita Valley, Windthorst, Archer Co. Municipal Utility District, Burkburnett, Dean Dale, Friberg Cooper, Holliday, Iowa Park, Lakeside City, Pleasant Valley, Scotland and Sheppard Air Force Base are all buy water from Wichita Falls.
If the weather pattern changes and Texoma experiences more rain frequently. There is a chance the city might not even add a Stage Five to its drought plan, but that doesn't mean there won't be any changes to it.
Nix said "There has been some discussions about possibly raising the triggers another 10 percent, which would put Stage One triggering at 70 percent. We do want to discuss that, because there is some concern that if we keep edging those up. We'll always be triggering Stage One."
The city does have to submit a new drought plan to the state in May 2014, but it doesn't have to wait until then to add a Stage Five. Nix told Newschannel 6, Stage Five could be triggered in 2 or 3 weeks, if we see an abnormally hot weather pattern this winter. The hope is that cooler temperatures will help stabilize the lakes for a few months.