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Home News-Telegram News City’s water reserves continue to be more than adequate

City’s water reserves continue to be more than adequate

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By KERRY CRAIG

    Last summer, while many cities were imposing restrictions on water use, the city of Sulphur Springs enjoyed adequate water resources.
    After more than two years of drought, the margin of reserve had grown smaller and the level of Cooper Lake — the city's primary water source — fell to about 12 feet low.
    Fall and winter rains raised the lake level by about a foot and a half, adding about 2,000 acre-feet of water.
    Now, just how much water is in an acre-foot? Imagine one acre of land covered by one foot deep of water, which is equivalent to 43,560 cubic feet, and one cubic foot of water is equivalent to 326,700 gallons. The addition of 2,000 acre-feet adds up to about 653.5 million gallons to the city's share of the water in Cooper Lake.
    In 2013, the city's water treatment plant processed an average of 4.3 million gallons a day for an average of 401.325 acre-feet of water per year.
    The city has rights to, or owns a specific quantity of water in Cooper Lake, as does North Texas Municipal Water District, the largest user of water from the lake.
    With the recent rains, City Manager Marc Maxwell said the city is in great shape.
    “The bottom line for us is we have nearly a full account,” Maxwell said. “We have the right to pump [divert] 18,128 acre-feet of water in a calendar year. We have storage rights to over 33,000 acre-feet.”
    Maxwell said, however, the city cannot pump the entire 33,000 acre-feet and last year the available quantity of water was dwindling.
    “We got down to 13,000 acre-feet last year left in our diversion account and will be back up to 17,000 acre-feet by the end of this month,” he said. “The bottom line is, we have about 90 percent of our water and we only use 5,000 acre-feet in any given year. We are in pretty good shape.
    “As rains come in, it will increase our storage account, but not our pumping account — we start with 18,128 acre-feet every year,” the city manager explained. “In January, it resets and any water we have gained goes back into our account.
    “You lose water to evaporation and percolation,” he continued. “What's left over is what is referred to as firm yield, and all the parties in the lake have agreed to what the firm yield is. We are allowed to pump that in any given year.”
    Several years ago, NTMWD began exploring the possibility of dredging the silt dam to gain access to more water. The cost for Sulphur Springs to participate in the dredging made the city's participation too expensive.
    Late last year, NTWMD again began discussing dredging without asking other users of Cooper Lake water to participate in the costs, which will benefit Sulphur Springs.
    “They are rapidly working toward that right now,” Maxwell said. “If the silt dam is removed, and that's the whole purpose of the dredging, we remove that one little caveat and we're in excellent condition.”
    Added insurance to the Sulphur Springs' water reserves is Lake Sulphur Springs, which holds a little more than a year's worth of water. It has storage of 15,000 acre-feet with a firm yield of 8,700 acre-feet of water.
    “We are only pumping 5,000 acre-feet, so it's not quite two years — we'll call it a year and a half — worth of yield and that's not too bad,” he said. “And, on top of that, we have the right, an option, to buy additional water in Cooper Lake from the NTMWD and that's also almost two years.”
    For the past couple of years, the city has been exploring the possibility of pumping treated effluent from the wastewater treatment plant into Lake Sulphur Springs to further bolster the city's water reserves.
    “That would be the intended purpose of selling water to the Metroplex so that we could strengthen our future position in water by building the pipeline and necessary treatment to be able to put it in Lake Sulphur Springs so we always keep it topped off,” Maxwell said. “That will increase the firm yield of Lake Sulphur Springs quite a bit if we are putting 3.5 million gallons, almost 11 acre-feet, in every day.”
    The pipeline to Lake Sulphur Springs and the requisite treatment facilities will not be cheap.
    “We have to be able to fund the project and to do that, we have to be able to sell some water which, on the surface, should be easy,” Maxwell said. “But, because the end customer is in a different river basin than we are in, there is a lot of red tape that goes along with it. So, the question is, how can we do it efficiently?”
    In the mean time, while many cities have suffered drought conditions and water restrictions, residents of Sulphur Springs have enjoyed adequate water resources and constant planning for the future will insure plenty of water.

 

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