WYLIE — The zebra mussel is affecting the North Texas Municipal Water District and threatening the water supply of more than 1.5 million North Texans.
It's a problem we first alerted you to back in April, when the first of the tiny creatures were discovered in Lake Texoma.
In August, scientists searched the waters of Lake Lavon for signs of the zebra mussel. Around that same time, the water district shut off the pipeline coming from Lake Texoma to protect other waters.
Now, North Texas is running low on water, and the need is so high that the NTMWD is considering reopening that spigot — knowing that mussels could come with it.
"Lake Texoma makes up 22.5 percent of our water supply, so we will need to turn those pumps back on," said NTMWD spokeswoman Denise Hickey.
Environmentalists like Bruce Hysmith fear that move could help spread the zebra mussel. The zebra mussel is known as an invasive species," he said. "In other words, we don't want it!"
The small mollusks multiply by the millions, devouring food and threatening fish. They also adhere to boat hulls and pipelines.
But without Texoma's replenishing water, too many other lakes, like Lavon, are feeling the strain of demand from homes and businesses.
The level at Lake Lavon is down six feet — and there is no drought to blame.
If the NTMWD pulls any more from its reservoirs, the district could face fines.
The agency is so desperate for water, it is now offering to buy nearly a half-million dollars' worth from reservoirs operated by the City of Dallas.
"It does put a strain on system," Hickey said. "We've been fortunate with lower demands and the rainier weather to keep those off, but we will have to turn those pumps back on to meet our future demands next year."
The NTMWD authority figures the mussels will spread whether it turns on the taps from Lake Texoma or not. Its major concern is quenching the thirst of more than a million North Texans.
Texas Parks and Wildlife is strongly urging boaters to be on the lookout for zebra mussels that could be clinging to their craft. Boaters could face a fine of up to $2,000 if they're caught with zebra mussels on their boats as they travel from lake to lake.