One signature left to put water use agreement into action
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Oct. 6, 2006 - A plan to solidify Sulphur Springs' water reserves was just one signature short of being set in concrete following approval by the City Council Tuesday and approval by another participating entity on Thursday.

The agreement had already been signed by North Texas Municipal Water District, the city of Irving and the Upper Trinity Regional Water District. Following Tuesday's City Council meeting, City Manager Marc Maxwell signed the document for Sulphur Springs.

On Thursday the agreement was presented to Sulphur River Water District, where it was approved and signed, leaving only one participating entity that has not joined in the plan.

"That would be Mayor Scotty Stegal from the city of Cooper, and I don't know just when they will meet," Maxwell said.

The new contractual agreement specifies just what percentage of water in Cooper Lake belongs to each entity.

Maxwell illustrated the concept as being like a bank account. When you have water in your account, you can pump it out. When your account is depleted, you simply stop pumping.

Under the current setup, there is no agreement that nails down the amounts of water each of the entities can pump. As a result, North Texas Municipal Water District — the biggest user — is pumping from Cooper Lake all the time.

Just how is Sulphur Springs going to benefit from this new agreement? 

"The big bonus to us is, we can be assured that nobody else can take our water out of the lake," Maxwell said. "Even when the lake is at its lowest levels historically, and North Texas has pumped all of its [water] out, we will still have water in the lake -- it won't be very good water, but it will be there for  our taking."

The new agreement also provides for enforcement of the water rights of each of the participating entities.

With the new limitations that will be placed on all the entities taking water from Cooper Lake, how will those limitations be enforced to ensure nobody pumps more than they are entitled to?

"There a couple of different things that will occur," Maxwell explained. "Each of us is required to report our monthly pumping to all the other parties."

The reports must also be submitted to the state.

A consultant employed by the consortium would then plug the numbers into a spreadsheet in a fairly routine procedure.

But Maxwell said he was taking the reporting a step further.

"We are going to gather the numbers and put them into the program ourselves and come up with the numbers," he said. "We are actually going to create a page on our [Internet] website whereby any person at any time can pull it up and see a graphical depiction of everybody's pail of water and just how full it is ... . That way we just always know where we are."

When the final signature on the water agreement is in place, work can get under way to dredge out the channel from the main lake to the water intake structure and the pumping station.

The dredging will make the canal deeper, thereby allowing water from the lowest levels of the lake to flow to the pumping station.

Maxwell said that the city will use water from Lake Sulphur Springs for about 60 days while the dredging work is in progress to prevent pumping mud and silt stirred by the work.

If the channel is not dredged, Maxwell said the city would only be able to pump water from Cooper Lake for another 30 to 45 days. After the work is completed, and if there is no rain, the lake can supply water until next August.

When water can no longer be pumped from Cooper Lake, the city still has almost a year's worth of water in Lake Sulphur Springs, which is only 2 1/2 feet below the full mark.

There are two sets of pumps at Lake Sulphur Springs, one on land with intake lines extending into the lake, the other out in the lake.

The pumps on land will have access to water for approximately 150 days. The city will be forced to dredge a better channel to the second set of pumps in the lake to be able to access another 150 day's worth of water.

While water conservation measures are already being enforced in cities served by North Texas Municipal Water District, Maxwell does not expect to have to implement the first phase of water conservation measures in Sulphur Springs until early in 2007 if there is no rain.

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