As the drought that started nearly a year ago has dragged on, gradually wearing away the amount of water in Lake Sam Rayburn’s conservation pool, LNVA general manager Scott Hall has been prompted to take a step further and increase the water shortage status from a moderate water shortage to a severe water shortage.
“This drought has persisted,” said Hall. “The forecast is for continued dry weather and below normal rainfall is predicted for the spring. The required mechanism to change the status is that the conservation pool falls below 153-feet and has remained below that for 30 days or more.”
According to Keith Cook, Sam Rayburn lake manager, the depth of the lake was coming in at 152.35 feet nearly a month ago. As of Wednesday, Oct. 5, the conservation pool had dropped nearly a foot to about 151.6 feet. The lowest recorded measurement came in at 150.75 feet back in 1996.
“It’s still going down,” said Cook. “There’s still evaporation that’s taking away from the conservation pool and there’s not a substantial amount of rainfall to renew it. It’s not depleting as quickly as it could be cause of the cooler temperatures – evaporation isn’t as strong as it was during the summer.”
Hall said it’s up to the munipalities and other water customers LNVA provides to as far as the implementation of conservation methods.
“They have to go into their drought contingency plans. Port Arthur is already working on implementing by using an alternate day, watering schedule,” Hall said.
It’s also important for individuals to take notice of the dry conditions and adjust accordingly, according to Hall. It’s up to them to also cut back wherever they can.
When it comes to conserving water during recreational activities, such as boating and fishing along the Neches River, simply launching above or below stream of the LNVA salt water barrier in Beaumont, depending on which direction the boater would like to go, could save 200,000 gallons.
“If people want to be upstream of the barrier, don’t launch downstream. Every time we have to open the gates to pass a boat, that’s 200,000 gallons gone. That’s enough water for one household to use for two years,” he said.
There are simple steps residents can take to do their part in conserving water on an everyday basis.
“Just use common sense. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. When watering the lawn, don’t saturate so much that water flows over the curb,” he said. “On an individual basis, every gallon matters, so make it count.
“How much water you use affects how much water the city requests. And in turn that affects how much water is released,” he said. “Everyone can conserve and everyone can make a difference.”
The LNVA sent out a release Thursday, Oct. 6:
“A Stage II - Severe Water Shortage Condition was triggered September 22, 2011, after Sam Rayburn Reservoir went below elevation 153 feet MSL on August 22, 2011 and remained there for 30 days. The drought has persisted and the current lake level is below elevation 152 feet or 12 feet below normal. Storage in the conservation pool is less than 15% of capacity. In April 2011, Lower Neches Valley Authority (LNVA) notified users of a Stage I - Moderate Water Shortage Condition and requested a voluntary 30 percent reduction of non-essential water use.
“The goals under Stage II are to protect the fresh water supply from saltwater intrusion, achieve a 90 percent reduction from non-essential water use and a 30 percent reduction in total water use.
“In an effort, to avoid reduction of water delivery, all customers will be required to schedule the delivery of water for the duration of the drought. LNVA held meetings with municipal and industrial customers October 4, 2011 to discuss operational changes necessary to extend the water supply through this time of severe shortage. The meeting covered the current stage of the drought, the forecast for next year, and the procedures required for scheduling water deliveries.
“The Authority will recognize that a Severe Water Shortage Condition has ended when the water level in Sam Rayburn Reservoir is above the Stage II trigger for 30 consecutive days. LNVA will notify its customers and the media of the termination of Stage II in the same manner as the notification of initiation of Stage I.”