Monday, June 02, 2014

City Minimizes Water Resources

The Standard Times under reported the impact of San Angelo's Memorial Day runoff.  It's much more than "several months supply":

In light of the Memorial Day Weekend rains that delivered several months of additional water supply to San Angelo, the council will have to address the city’s management of this water.

City ordinance requires the council to implement a drought level by resolution, once the water utilities director informs it of which threshold San Angelo falls within.

Before the replenishing rains, San Angelo was inching closer to drought level 3, which is triggered when the city has less than 12 months of available water supply. Drought level 3 prohibits all outdoor watering.

Drought level 2 is triggered when the city has less than 18 months of water.

Drought level 1 is triggered when the city has less than 24 months of water.

The city currently remains in drought level 2, which permits outdoor watering once every two weeks. The council will determine which level to implement at Tuesday’s meeting.

Last week Ricky Dickson, director of Water Utilities, was awaiting final inflows to area lakes to determine how much they caught from the Memorial Day weekend deluge, but he said it was likely San Angelo would end up with more than 18 months of water when the final figures came in.

Dickson will have the most current information about water supply for the council at Tuesday’s meeting.

In September 2012, when a similar weekend rainfall pulled San Angelo back from going into drought level 3, many members of the public were opposed to going back into drought level 1. 

The council at the time had its hands tied because the ordinance required the city to revert to a less restrictive drought stage because of the number of months it had in water supply.

On Tuesday the council is to discuss and take action on the drought level.
“The Water Conservation and Drought Contingency Plan is designed to encourage water conservation at all times,” a city memo states, “and to establish a procedure for identifying, classifying and handling a water supply shortage.”

Here's the tale of the tape on our current water supplies (based on data from San Angelo Live pre and post rain event):
Lake Nasworthy - up 93% or 4,667 acre feet
Twin Buttes - up 390% or 12,782 acre feet (this could be higher 
            depending on the inclusion/exclusion of South Pool volume)  
O.C. Fisher - up 2,551 acre feet
That's an additional 20,000 acre feet in San Angelo lakes.  It doesn't include increases in Lake Ivie, Spence or Hickory water

The city uses about 15,000 acre-feet -- or 4.9 billion gallons -- of water per year.

Do the math.  The city was ready to enter 12 months or less of water when it received 16 months of water in local lakes.  That gets us to 28 months, without a drop from Ivey (gained 55,000 acre feet), Spence (which we pay for rights to but is physically undeliverable) or Hickory (4.5 months of water).  Current water totals show the City under no drought restrictions under current law.

The City speaks out of both sides of its mouth on water.  It looks at water as a huge revenue source and has for the last several drought cycles.  Increasing prices at this time will raise revenue for the city.

In contrast the City wants to increase watering at area parks and charge itself less.  Yes, parks need to maintain their plant material, but so do homeowners.

Various City City Councils requested staff bring a comprehensive conservation package, yet none arrived.  We quit watering the yard eight months ago.  It was the right thing to do for an active user of area lakes.

Our next decision is bring back the Bermuda grass or xeriscape.  I'll look to see what City Council has for citizens trying to do right in their June 3rd meeting.  If the past is a predictor of the future, it won't be much.  I've seen a number of price increases to where the comprehensive utility bill is $80 to $100 with monthly water usage of 3,000 - 5,000 gallons.

Whatever the city does to citizens by raising fees or imposing restrictions, it needs to do to itself.  Leadership by example may be a rare event these days.  However, it is important.

Update 6-3-14:  The City's schizophrenia regarding water showed when it kept drought restrictions at Level 2 while approving once a week watering.  Water Chief Ricky Dickson said the city had over 30 months of water, three years worth if Hickory water is included.  Council will revisit the issue in July.  The Standard Times reported Twin Buttes' gain as 21,508 acre feet.  This is either a typo or incredible news that includes gains from adding South Pool volumes.

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