Severe drought conditions are affecting Fort Bend County communities. Recently the City of Pearland, a portion of which is located in Fort Bend County, announced voluntary measures to reduce water usage. The City of Katy is now forced to do the same thing. As reported by Karen Hastings, Houston Chronicle, on June 7, 2011:
Katy city officials have announced voluntary restrictions to counter a spike in drought-fueled water consumption.
As residents attempt to resuscitate parched lawns, city wells have been pumping an average of 4.5 million gallons per day – a 50 percent increase over normal May pumpage rates, Public Works Director Elaine Lutringer said.
While that rate is enough to trigger formal Stage Two mandatory restrictions under the city’s 2002 Drought Contingency Plan, Katy officials believe those triggers are outdated, given the city’s recent population increase and the capacity of the water system.
“Our citizens and businesses are so good at working with the city that we want to ask for voluntary restrictions first,” Lutringer said. “As we assess daily, that could change.”
The voluntary restrictions remained in effect June 7.
As described on the city’s website, informal voluntary restrictions ask that residents use minimal water and irrigate their yards before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m.
A voluntary move to irrigate only in early morning and evening hours can have a significant effect on daily usage, Assistant City Administrator Bill Drohan said. It evens out the system load and means less stress on water pumps, he said.
“Normally during the night, your wells usually rest. We would rather that they run a little bit at night than running so hard during the day,” Drohan said.
Watering during cooler hours also cuts down on evaporation and is actually more effective, he added. “It’s actually a better use of the water.”
The city also urged residents to check for water leaks around their residence or business.
A notice on the city website mentions extremely dry weather and hot temperatures. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, this area is experiencing the highest-level “exceptional drought” conditions, along with more than half of the rest of the state.
“Whenever you see a significant increase (in water use), it’s usually in the heat, and for the most part it’s from watering yards and trying to keep lawns alive,” Drohan said. “Our normal human consumption usually stays the same year-round.”
Drohan and Lutringer said the city is in no danger of running out of water and that voluntary efforts could prevent the need for mandatory restriction.
“As far as our water pumpage and water aquifer levels, we are fine at this point,” Lutringer said. “We have the storage capacity; so we’re not running into problems with our capacity.”
“This is more just waking people up, telling them to think about conservation,” Drohan added. “These are precautions you take when you see certain patterns start. You’re still able to water your yard; we’re just asking you to do it during times of low consumption. Water is precious, and during a drought it’s even more precious.”
The city operates a total of six water-well plants in Harris, Fort Bend and Waller counties. Each plant includes ground and elevated storage tanks. The city has roughly 5.6 million gallons of storage in its ground tanks, and 2.4 million in its elevated tanks.
Water levels in the corresponding aquifers are a deciding factor in how much the city can pump each day, Lutringer said.
“Our water levels are fine right now,” she stressed.