Water worries not over
Too many permits strain Cooper Lake levels, city manager says
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

March 29, 2006 -- Although recent rains have improved the water situation and forecasts hold the promise of additional rainfall, the specter of a water crisis still exists.

Cooper Lake is now only seven feet low, much improved from being less than half full only weeks ago, but the lake level is still in a substantial deficit.

"It still highlights a fundamental problem that we have -- Cooper Lake is over-permitted," said City Manager Marc Maxwell.

Maxwell was referring to the number of utility districts and municipalities that have permits to draw water from the reservoir.

"If you total up the permitted diversions from Cooper Lake, it is more than the lake will actually yield," Maxwell said.

Maxwell, along with representatives of the other entities that are permitted to take water from Cooper Lake, maintain a close watch on the water level as well as the quantities pumped from the lake.

The other entities that are permitted to take water from Cooper Lake include North Texas Municipal Water District, the city of Irving, and Upper Trinity Regional Water District.

In a worst-case scenario, with no additional rain this year, Maxwell said, there will be no water in Cooper Lake. The city of Sulphur Springs has another year's water reserve in Lake Sulphur Springs.

In the event of a prolonged drought, however, two years would be the limit for Sulphur Springs. After that, the city would be out of water, and it would have to be hauled in by truck or rail car.

"Before that time, we would have to start rationing," Maxwell said. "We have looked at contingency plans in the past few weeks, but with the recent rains, that was put on the back burner for now. Really, I think we are in a much better position than any of the other partners in Cooper Lake."

The Sulphur Springs city manager met Tuesday in Irving with the other partners in Cooper Lake to explore available water reserves and steps to take to get the maximum benefit from the lake.

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