Only On 6: Stage 5: What's Next? - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Only On 6: Stage 5: What's Next?

Posted: Updated:

Water is at a premium right now for almost all of Texoma. We have followed the drought closely for the last almost four years. Since the floods of 2007, which was the wettest year on record for the entire state of Texas, levels have dropped by more than two-thirds. Another event similar to those floods would bust the drought, but Wichita Falls officials are trying to figure out what is next if rains don't come. 
It does not matter who you ask, the drought continues and there are now no easy options unless it rains. Stage 5 is just about as far as most restrictions can go. 
"We feel like that as far as discretionary water is concerned, we've done about all we can and keep people in the city going," says Wichita Falls Water Resources Committee Chairman Arnold Oliver.
There are still a few water using businesses that could see further restrictions should lake levels keep dropping.
Oliver said, "When the combined lakes of Kickapoo and Arrowhead reach 20-percent, car washes are shut off."
Those car washes could stay open, if they can find a source of water other than the city. 
One thing that could keep us away from a Stage 6 beside rain, is the Temporary Water Reuse Project.  The consensus is, that project will make a big difference in where our water comes from. 
"It's about all we can do at this point," said Wichita Falls Director of Public Works Russell Schrieber.  "It's five million gallons a day. It would be a third of our supply or demand. On paper it's going to have a substantial impact on extending the supply of the lakes."
Wichita Falls Utilities Operations Manager Daniel Nix agrees, and said, "The reuse project is a big relief. Obviously it's going to supplant what we're taking out of the lakes. Hopefully make those lakes last a lot longer."
Nix also said the reuse project will allow the city other options when it comes to processing all the water possible, if the levels don't rise. That would include using Lake Kemp. 
Wichita Falls has rights to the last 50,000 acre feet. That's about 18-billion gallons of water. The problem is at that level, the salt filled water is not easy to treat, and would require the city to make some changes.
"That's the reason we cut it off for the last 6 to 8 months because we can't treat it, says Russell Schrieber. "It's too salty even with the MFRO plant. We can't treat it down enough and blend it back with the Arrowhead and Kickapoo water where we can't get hardly any yield out of it, but if worst comes to worst, we may have to do something."
Using Lake Kemp water could also jeopardize the largest power plant in Texoma. 
"You've got a 250-megawatt power plant, that in the next year could be out of water and out of business," said Daniel Nix.
That AEP coal plant uses a lot of water to turn it's turbines and produce that power. That water comes from Lake Kemp. The plant's owners are one of the groups that has given money to the cloud seeding efforts in Wichita Falls in hopes that more rain will fall on Lake Kemp. 
Another big water using industry that was left out of Stage 5 restrictions is the restaurant business. They saw big restrictions when the city went into stage 3.
"There's not much more we can do other than just be diligent," says Bryan Press with Luby's Cafeteria. 
Luby's in Wichita Falls are one of the many restaurants that has looked into saving water by using paper goods. It was a suggestion that the North Texas Restaurant Association made. Press told us that just buying paper plates would run around $4,000 a month. Factoring in water bill savings and other factors the cost comes down to $3,000. All to save less water that 2 average homes use in a month.  
"That's expensive water to spend $3,000 for a household and a half worth of water," said Press. "If it's gotta be done, we'll do our part."
Another Wichita Falls based company is working to save a large amount of water that could make a difference in a possible Stage 6. 
"We've got a big project going with PPG right now to conserve 200,000 gallons a day," said Daniel Nix.
That project is partially funded by the city and will bring gray water to PPG. It was the company's idea. Daniel Nix sees them as an example we can all follow. 
"When you have a major industry like that, that's a national industry and international industry, and they say 'you know what? We care. We want to stay here. We're going to do what it takes.' That's the message that needs to be sent. We're all in this together, and it's going to take all of us doing it," said Nix.
A lot of people have been asking about finding another source of water. The City has long talked about Lake Ringgold. It's years away even if they started on it today. So, what about something like Lake Texoma? Wichita Falls Director of Public Works Russell Schrieber has looked into that. He told us a project like that would take 15-years and cost around $1-billion dollars. Schrieber says that just not a realistic option. 
Chris Horgen, Newschannel 6.