Effort fails to restore Texoma water supply



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Posted on May 16, 2012 at 6:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 16 at 7:04 PM

A half-million dollar plan to funnel water from Lake Texoma to Lake Lavon without spreading zebra mussels has failed.

The North Texas Municipal Water District thought it would be able to safely move water from Texoma during months when the water is cold and zebra mussels are dormant.

But now officials say that plan will not work, and the result is a continued squeeze on the North Texas water supply.

About 25 percent of the water supply for many North Texans comes from Lake Texoma.

This concept of seasonal pumping was an experiment that has never been tried, but NTMWD, which serves much of Collin County, had high hopes.

"It's a little bit discouraging,” said Mike Rickman with NTMWD. “A lot of hard work had gone into it.”

What happened?

Scientists say zebra mussels and their babies, called veligers, go dormant in cold winter water. The district — under close federal supervision — got clearance to pump only in cold water, and only if no zebra mussel DNA is detected in the water.

The district spent a half-million dollars preparing its system, but tiny amounts of veliger DNA still showed up in water samples.

Were those veligers alive or were they dead? Rickman said he suspects they were dead, but there is not yet a test available that can tell the difference.

The water district says it will try again next year, hopefully with more accurate testing or by adding a chemical that removes those remaining veligers.

"We're gonna try again this coming winter, see if we can't be successful,” Rickman said.

This is the only short-term solution to the region's water supply problem. The long-term solution is a new $300 million pipeline, now under construction, that can filter zebra mussels out of the water pumped from Texoma. That is scheduled to open late next year.

Until then, Rickman says water restrictions will likely continue.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com