Water district braces for North Texas drought crisis

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on October 26, 2011 at 10:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 26 at 12:18 AM

Lake Lavon

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The North Texas Municipal Water District, which serves hundreds of thousands of North Texans, says it's preparing for the possibility that it could run out of water.

The district fears it may not be able to pump from Lake Lavon in two years; that's the worst-case scenario.

The lake's normal level is 492 feet. Right now, it's at 479 and dropping.

Ten more feet would eliminate Lavon as a water source, and if the drought continues, it could trigger some costly decisions.

Some of Lake Lavon's coves are already bone dry. The lake is more than half-empty.

A consultant hired by the NTMWD says if this drought is anything like the drought of the 1950s, it could reach crisis proportions.

"We could potentially run out of water in the district, without taking any other measures, sometime next summer," said NTMWD deputy director Mike Rickman.

The district and its member cities are already preparing for the worst.

"We may not have enough water to supply basic human needs or to fight fires," said Steve Massey, community services director for the City of Allen.

If Lavon drops another 10 feet, its two main intake pumps will be left high and dry. The district is considering options to ensure water keeps flowing, even if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate.

NTMWD would buy water from other suppliers and spend $350 million to pipe water in — an expense that could be passed on to users.

Part of the current problem is an infestation of zebra mussels at Lake Texoma. It shut down the pipeline that carries water to Lavon, which supplies the district with more than a quarter of its supply.

District leaders want to build a 42-mile extension of that pipeline that would bypass Lavon. "We would pipe that water all the way to the treatment plant where it wouldn't be put into Lake Lavon," Rickman said.

The water district also asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to let it resume pumping water from Texoma during the cold winter months, when the mussels stop reproducing. They're waiting for an answer.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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