Drought Ends, Changes Begin

Drought Ends, Changes Begin

The drought has officially come to an end in Wichita Falls. City Councilors made the change official Tuesday with a unanimous vote to drop drought restrictions.

The news comes after four long years of tough restrictions. The last time the city was restriction-free was August 2011.

Record-breaking rainfall swept across most of Texoma in May, pushing area lakes to 100 percent capacity.  City leaders said even with the lack of restrictions they are optimistic about the water supply moving forward.

"80 billion gallons of water…just with the last rain event that filled the reservoirs," said Public Works Director Russell Schreiber. "We only use 4.5 to 5 billion gallons a year. Not only as the city but all the whole sale customers combined."

However, although the city has dropped out of drought stages, it does not mean the end of water restrictions completely. Permanent restrictions from the city ordinance, written prior to the drought stages, will still be in enforced.

The year round restrictions include:

1. No spray watering any day between 11:00 am and 6:00 pm

2. No washing a car at home unless the hose has a nozzle with a shut-off valve.

3. Water at a restaurant, bar or club will not be provided unless requested by a customer

The official drought announcement is giving city leaders a sense of relief, and businesses and residents new opportunities.

"There are a lot of businesses, you see them pop up now," said Wichita Falls Resident Brian Howery. "The boating and the lawn services...it's really, really, really a blessing."

"I think the end of the drought is a good thing," said Marie Bonham, another Wichita Falls resident.

"It's just a great joy," said Wichita Falls resident Charles Lonon. "I mean we needed it, and we got it. "

But it wasn't the rain alone that got the city through tough times. Resident conservation and the implementation of the Direct Potable Reuse project has helped pave the way.

Now that the drought has ended, city leaders say it's time to begin transitioning into the permanent Indirect Potable Reuse system.

"We're blessed that the lakes are full and we don't have to use the DPR project," said Schreiber. "That has allowed us to be able to go ahead and remove that pipe now."

In 30 to 45 days the DPR project will officially go offline. Until the IPR is installed, city water will come strictly from reservoirs.

"I mean there is a vast amount of water out there in the reservoirs," said Scheiber. "Peoples water use habits have changed. You and I aren't going to use water the way we did prior to the drought."

The city intends on starting the bidding process for the IPR project in August. They also hope to have the pipe installed by September, according to Schreiber.

Once online, the new system will bring Lake Arrowhead roughly 13 million gallons of water a day. It will also all the city new access to Lake Kemp.

As city leaders start the transition process to the IPR project, the Water Resources Commission will also work on new permanent water restrictions.

They also plan on making minor changes to portions of the current drought contingency plan.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6