Tightened water restrictions may be on horizon

Officials with the city of Big Spring say water conservation efforts during the winter and spring months have gone well, but with little rain forecasted for the coming months, mandatory restrictions are likely on the horizon for the Crossroads area.The city is currently in Stage 2 of its Drought Contingency Plan, which requires city water customers follow a number of outdoor water use restrictions, a contrast from the mandatory restrictions the city implemented last summer.According to Interim City Manager Todd Darden, talks are already under way between the Colorado River Municipal Water District and its customer cities regarding restricted water deliveries in the coming months.“We're in a situation where we haven't gotten the spring rains we had hoped for,” Darden said. “That's a sort of double-edged sword for water use in Big Spring. While the rains would help us by raising the water levels in the CRMWD reservoirs, it would also begin to green-up people's lawns, which seems to kick start area residents into watering their yards more often.“We've talked to CRMWD and they are asking for us to calculate the averages for our water usage. They will take the winter use average, the summer average and then the peak consumption from the summer months and from that, determine how much water they will deliver to us. It's a pretty complicated process, but all of the cities who get their water from the water district will have to do it.”Darden said the city has done well in conserving water since dropping from Stage 3 to State 2 of the contingency plan. However, the move from restrictions enforced by the law to a honor-based system is beginning to fray at the edges.“We're beginning to see more people washing their cars in their driveways or watering their lawns and trees on days we've asked them not to,” Darden said. “People are beginning to go back to their old habits, the ones they had before the water restrictions, and that's bad for everyone.”According to CRMWD officials, the O.H. Ivie Reservoir — which has been the principal source of water for water district cities since last year — is currently at 19.34 percent capacity, down almost 6 percent since October 2012. The E.V. Spence Resrvoir is currently at 4.84 percent capacity, while the J.B. Thomas Reservoir currently sits at a dismal 0.56 percent.Under Stage 2 of the contingency plan, water customers are requested to limit the irrigation of landscaped areas to Sundays and Thursdays for customers with a street address ending in an even number, according to city officials. Water customers with a street address ending in an odd number are allowed to water Saturdays and Wednesdays between midnight and 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and midnight.“Irrigation of landscaped areas is permitted at anytime if it is by means of a hand held hose, a faucet filled bucket, watering can of five gallons or less, or drip irrigation system,” Darden said. “Also, water customers are requested to refrain from washing cars and to continue to practice water conservation and to minimize or discontinue water use for non-essential purposes. Wasting of water is still very much prohibited.“At the rate we are going right now, I believe we'll be going back to Stage 3 sometime toward the end of June or, possibly, sooner than that. It's very, very important that water customers continue to do everything they can to conserve water.”