Pauls Valley Democrat
The past year for Pauls Valley was one of mixed blessings when it came to relief from a dry 2011, with some farmers seeing a better year for crops, while others struggled to keep livestock hydrated.
However, what positive impact that came from precipitation in 2012 was undone as a second straight year of drought continued and the decrease in available resources has no better example than Pauls Valley’s two lakes.
The extreme at both Longmire Lake and the Old City Lake has reached a level never seen before by those like City Manager James Frizell, and if things don’t improve by the spring, the city will for the first time in his memory be forced to implement mandatory water restrictions.
“If we don’t get any significant rainfall by March we’re going to have to start mandatory water rationing,” said Frizell, noting how the main reason no restrictions are called right now is because people typically use less water this time of the year.
“It will be strictly for necessity only. It’s unbelievable how low it’s gotten.”
One need only walk out on areas that were previously underwater for years to gauge the full impact as levels now at Longmire have dropped 12 to 14 feet below normal and around 10 feet below at the older lake.
Frizell said it is also new territory for leadership, even being seen as worse than the drought of 1983 when the Old City Lake was the only source of water.
Voluntary water rationing is the worst that has occurred since then and was more an impact of the former water plant that could not handle the demand in the summer months instead of low water levels.
If water restrictions are made mandatory it would most likely mean no outdoor watering however long it lasted and limited to indoor use.
“If it’s as bleak as it is now three months from now there will be no watering. There’s land that hasn’t shown since this lake was built,” said Frizell, speaking of Longmire and adding how they would probably skip past an alternating watering schedule.
“I’ve seen ponds dry that I’ve never seen dry in my lifetime.”
It’s hard to find areas not seeing adverse results from lower lake levels be it closed off boat ramps or stranded docks or even more serious, a lack of an emergency source of water if there is a fire near the Old City Lake, said Frizell.
This comes from the water level dropping below a pipeline attached to a hose fixture and is usually something depended upon by the nearby rural fire departments.
Adding to the problem more recently are waterline breaks caused by the dry conditions as well as colder weather, said Frizell.
There is never a good time for a line to break, but when water is already low, any loss compounds the impact more, he said,
Other alternatives discussed that could take place could be drawing water from the Washita River or installing pumps to help water get to the treatment plant if it dips below where the collection towers draw it in, said Frizell.
In case of water from the river, a pipeline would need to be built to part of it and would require regulations and approval from the Department of Environmental Quality.
“Our guys have been battling waterline breaks for over a month now,” said Frizell. “It’s always significant, but it’s more significant in drought conditions.”