City of Wichita Falls praises IPR water system

An investment made by the citizens and City of Wichita Falls in 2014 is paying off. City officials said the Indirect Reuse Project (IPR) system has kept us from
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 5:31 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - An investment made by the citizens and City of Wichita Falls in 2014 is paying off. City officials said the Indirect Reuse Project (IPR) system has kept us from entering stage one of the drought plan.

Eight years ago, taxpayers in Wichita Falls saw their water bills increase drastically after coming out of the 2011 drought. They were confused and angry because they conserved water so well and felt like they were being punished understandably, but looking back now, officials said that increase was an investment for the future and having the IPR system has paid off in every way possible.

“Since we have started it in 2018, it has returned over eight billion gallons of water back to Lake Arrowhead,” Daniel Nix, Utilities Operations Manager said.

Wichita Falls has been the closest this year to entering their stage one drought plan since coming out of it in 2015. Right now, combined lake levels sit at 71%. When they hit 65%, drought restrictions kick in.

“We could trigger the stage one as early as the end of September,” Nix said. “With the recent cooling and the loss of evaporation and the rainfall, that has been pushed out to late October or maybe not even at all this year.”

A big component for why the city isn’t already in stage one of their drought plan is the IPR system, a process that recycles used water, filters and cleans it, then sends it back into Lake Arrowhead.

“It was an investment in our future and if you look at now, we were in an extreme drought just a few weeks ago,” Chris Horgen, public information officer for the City of Wichita Falls said. “Had that continued, we had already bought ourselves at least another month of water.”

Taxpayers weren’t happy when they saw a drastic increase to their water bill eight years ago. If it wasn’t for that, the water department wouldn’t have been able to afford the Indirect Reuse Project. If that wasn’t in place today, there is a good chance the city of Wichita Falls would already be in stage one of their drought plan.

“Without it being in place, our estimates are that Lake Arrowhead would be about 4-5% lower than it currently is, which would put our combined levels 1% closer to the trigger level,” Nix said.

Officials said that they have learned a lot in the last decade, but that the residents have as well.

“The city was using about 35 million gallons of water a day before the drought,” Horgen said. “Once we got out of the drought and got back to more of a normal usage in life and everything else after all the conservation we did, we are still only using about 30 million gallons, so that is a five million gallon drop a day just by those good habits that we formed during the drought.”

While officials understand the challenges the increased water bills eight years ago presented, they can confidently say that the money was put to the best use.

“I think we can look back on it now and even though it was a hardship to see our water bills go up as much as they did, it was definitely well spent,” Horgen said.

“We knew that this time was coming,” Nix said. “We had been planning for the last seven years on this. The IPR started in 2018, it is doing the job it was designed to do and it is doing it well.”

While droughts are not preventable, officials said they will continue to learn and adapt to make sure Wichita Falls is as drought resistant as possible.