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Rains buy some time for CRMWD

June 11, 2012

Recent rainfall in and around the Crossroads area — along with increased water conservation efforts — has likely added another two to three months to the dangerously short lifespan of the local water district's lone surviving reservoir, according to officials.

According to John Grant, Colorado River Municipal Water District general manager, the recent rainfall has done little to improve low reservoir levels at Lake Thomas and Lake Spence, but Lake Ivie saw a considerable gain from Mother Nature's gift.

“The heavier rain we had about three weeks ago had the most effect on our reservoirs,” Grant said. “We didn't see any real changes at Spence or Thomas, but at Ivie we saw the lake level raise approximately one foot, which is good.”

According to CRMWD records, the Ivie Reservoir is currently at 16.26 percent of capacity, making it the water district's principle source of raw water. Lake Spence remains at just 0.39 percent capacity and Lake J.B. Thomas is at 0.78 percent capacity.

“We haven't used Lake Thomas to supply Big Spring with water in quite some time. It's been since around 2008 since we've sent water from Thomas to Big Spring,” Grant said. “However, water levels have finally gotten so low we've had to stop pumping water from Thomas to the city of Snyder, which is basically getting the same Ivie water the rest of the cities are getting now.

“We're working on getting a barge pump up and running at Lake Thomas, so we haven't given up on pumping water from there altogether. However, it's going to take a very considerable influx of rainfall before we can look at it or Spence as a viable source of reservoir water again.”
Grant said the recent rains, along with increased conservation efforts, should mean a longer period of time before Ivie theoretically runs dry.

“Previously, we were looking at running out of reservoir water at Ivie sometime around December or January,” Grant said. “However, we've been able to decrease our overall water deliveries to the cities we serve, which we believe extended the life of Ivie out until about April of 2013.

“These rains, along with the months we've saved through conservation, should give us until June or July before Ivie is too low to pump water from, and that is if we don't get any more rain between now and then. So, we're definitely in much better shape now than we had expected to be in when we began looking at the situation.”

Also an encouraging note on the water district's calendar is the ongoing work on a pipeline to bring water from its Ward County well fields to the Crossroads area, a project Grant said is developing right on time.

“We've been working on a very tight calendar all along, there's little doubt of that,” Grant said. “When we were looking at running out of reservoir water in December we were also looking at having this pipeline completed in January 2013. However, things are going very well with the pipeline and barring some sort of unforeseen problem, I fully expect it will be up and running on time.”

The project — which is estimated at $140 million, along with ongoing efforts to build a water reclamation plant in Big Spring — could generate approximately 45 million gallons of water per day for the Crossroads area.

“We actually have two pipelines currently under construction,” Grant said. “The first is to connect a new well field CRMWD has purchased with the existing one in Ward County. The second pipeline will increase the amount of water we can deliver from the well fields. We're also in the process of drilling more wells in the Ward County fields.”

While the recent rainfall may have given CRMWD a bit of a cushion going into 2013 and added some greenery to the local scenery, the city of Big Spring remains in Stage 3 of it's drought contingency plan, implemented by the city council to meet CRMWD's decreases in water deliveries.

Currently, municipal water customers are on a two-hour-a-week schedule for outdoor watering, according to Assistant City Manager Todd Darden. The restrictions allow residential customers whose address ends in an odd number to water their lawns for a two-hour period Tuesdays between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., while residential customers whose address ends in an even number are allowed to water for a two-hour period Thursdays between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

“The recent rains have helped to green-up many of our lawns, but they haven't changed the need for water conservation at all,” Darden said. “The situation is just as dire and in need of our attention now as it was before the rains. In truth, it's going to take a lot more than a few rain storms before we can put these drought issues behind us.”

Commercial establishments are curently allowed to water in accordance with the Drought Contingency Plan for a two-hour period Wednesdays between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Additional restrictions include:

• Vehicles can only be washed at commercial — including mobile — car wash establishments.
• Wading pools, fish ponds and fountains can be filled during the allotted watering schedule, only.
• Swimming pools, jacuzzis, hot tubs and other recreational water-using items can only be filled between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.
• No outside watering is allowed except on the days and times designated, with the exception of potted plants and flower beds, which can be watered on any day between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. using a watering can of 5 gallons or less. Use of a water hose during these hours is strictly prohibited.
• Washing of houses, decks, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, etc. is strictly prohibited.

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