City's water reserves looking better
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

May 10, 2006 -- Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell said Tuesday that the city's water resources will be adequate at least through September, even if it doesn't rain.

To make the city's position even better, a tentative agreement reached with Upper Trinity Regional  Water District, the city of Irving and North Texas Municipal Water District may further secure Sulphur Springs' water resources.

"I think, actually, we have an agreement in principal how to manage the lake in such a way that will protect us and protect our water from being pumped by anybody else," he said.

Sulphur Springs' permit will yield approximately 13.5 million gallons of water a day, the city manager said. 

"The problem is, all of the permits for diversions from the lake actually add up to more than the lake will actually yield under drought conditions which we have right now," he explained. "When others, like North Texas [MWD], pump up to their permit, they are actually taking our water, but they are well within their permit."

Storage and yield, however, are two different things. Yield, the actual amount of water available, can be less than storage potential, depending on weather conditions.

A number of years ago, the city entered into an agreement with the other entities permitted to take water from Cooper Lake. Under that agreement, if there had been "overdrafting" — pumping more than the permit allows — the parties would simply take less water.

The language contained in that agreement was, in some areas, vague and open to interpretation.

"One of the parties, particularly North Texas, felt it would allow them to keep pumping," Maxwell said. "I think we have got that loophole closed — in principal."

Pending formal approval of the participating entities, the agreement would be somewhat similar to a each participant having its own "water account — water in, water out."

Water is gained by what flows into the lake, and is taken out by evaporation, percolation, and the amount pumped from the lake.

The member entities will now go back and calculate what everyone would have in their account at this point in time. Maxwell anticipates that will leave Sulphur Springs in an even better position.

"You pump up to your amount and have zero left,  you have to stop pumping," Maxwell explained. "Whether you want to pump fast or slow, it is up to you, it is in your account and is your water until you have used it."

The recent rains have had no effect on Cooper Lake. In fact, the water level has dropped more than a foot since the most recent major rains. Normal elevation at the lake is 440 feet; the current elevation is 431.62 feet.

But overall, Sulphur Springs remains in good shape. 

"While some of the other districts are in phase I or phase II of their drought contingency management plan, we have not entered phase I yet," Maxwell said. "I think we have got enough to get through the summer, and if we can reach this agreement, we will probably be better off."

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