Wichita Falls City Councilors announced the end of Stage 5 drought restrictions Tuesday. The city will now enter into Stage 3 drought emergency restrictions. The new changes will begin immediately.
This change comes after the city gained more than 45 billion gallons of water from recent rains, pushing combined lake levels to 54.1 percent. The impact from the new water added to the lakes will provide the city with more than 10 extra years of water, even under Stage 3 restrictions, according to Wichita Falls City Council.
Moving to Stage 3 is more than warranted, according to Russell Schreiber, Public Works Director in Wichita Falls. With the percent capacity the lakes are at right now, the city could decrease restrictions even further. However, city officials said they want to be extra careful when putting these restrictions in place.
"For the time being, I think Stage 3 is the right place to be," said Schreiber. "We won't see demands go back to where it was in the previous Stage 3."
Data taken from past usage from the Stage 3 drought in 2013, has given councilors an idea on what can be expected following this move. City officials estimate water usage in stage three at roughly 17 million gallons of water.
"I think a lot of people are under the impression that 'oh it will go back to the way it was,' and I don't think it will ever go back to the way it was in our generation," said Tim Ingle, City Councilor for District 4.
With the estimated usage, and evaporation rates officials say about one percent will be used from lake level capacity per month, in the worst case scenario.
"I think we have the supply," said Schreiber. "There's no doubt in my mind that we have the supply to support that stage, and we're comfortable at that stage."
City leaders say the direct potable reuse project will provide the city with 5 million gallons of water per day. It's that, in combination with conservation, rainwater harvesting, water wells, and cut backs from major industries that have leaders confident this is the right move.
One resident and business owner says after four years of hardship this change is the move she needs to keep her business going. Smith's Gardentown has called Wichita Falls home for 65 years. But during that time co-owner Katherine Smith said her business and livelihood has taken a hit.
"We had to lay off 75 percent of our employees, we reduced our own salaries by a like percentage," said Smith.
Ever since Stage 4 and 5 drought restrictions she said her business had reached an all time low.
That's why she says the change is music to her ears.
"I really think that with our lakes over 50 percent, that gives us a very good cushion, and especially if we continue with conservation efforts," said Smith. "We'll have the help wanted sign out immediately."
Follow the link for a complete list of Stage 3 restrictions:
City leaders said, even with the changes, they will still continue with long term drought plans. The indirect potable reuse project as well as Lake Ringgold plans in progress will continue.
In the coming months City Officials said they will re-write and re-analyze the current drought stages and plans. They said they will make changes to lake capacity stage triggers, and restrictions among those stages. Those changes will take 60-90 days to write, and even longer to implement.