Officials with the city of Big Spring say water use and conservation during the winter months has gone well; however, with little rain in the forecast this summer, mandatory restrictions will likely be back in effect soon.
The city moved from Stage 3 of its drought contingency plan to Stage 2 in mid-December, which loosened restrictions on outdoor water use and moved the plan from a mandatory enforcement to voluntary community participation.
According to Big Spring Interim City Manager Todd Darden, conservation efforts during the winter have gone well, although the outlook going into the summer months isn't looking very good.
“I can't say enough about our citizens and their efforts to conserve water this winter despite the move from mandatory to voluntary restrictions,” Darden said. “They really stepped up to the plate and kept the city's water consumption at a good level.
“Unfortunately, going into the spring and summer months isn't looking very good at this point. The climatologists who have been working with the Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD) say it looks like it's going to be a dry summer, which is really bad news for us and our water customers. Without a very serious influx of rain, we'll likely have to move back to Stage 3 and the mandatory restrictions sometime in April.”
Darden said the expected move in drought stages doesn't come as a surprise, as officials with CRMWD have been expecting it for some time.
“Back in December, when CRMWD lifted the mandatory restrictions, John Grant (CRMWD manager) told us if we didn't get some serious rain, we'd likely have to move back to mandatory restrictions by the early spring or summer,” Darden said.
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 20.99 percent capacity, down almost 5 percent since October 2012. The E.V. Spence Resrvoir is currently at 5.17 percent capacity, while the J.B. Thomas Reservoir currently sits at a dismal 0.83 percent.
Current water restrictions remain in place, according to Darden, on a voluntary basis.
“Water customers are requested to voluntarily limit the irrigation of landscaped areas to Sundays and Thursdays for water customers with a street address ending in an even number,” Darden said. “Saturdays and Wednesdays will be for water customers with a street address ending in an odd number and to irrigate only between the hours of midnight until 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and midnight on designated days.”
Irrigation of landscaped areas is permitted at anytime if it is by means of a hand-held hose, a faucet-filled bucket or watering can of five gallons or less, or drip irrigation system. 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 prohibited.
While the current restrictions are voluntary, Darden said how long they stay that way is directly related to how Big Spring water customers use the precious — and dwindling — resource.
“To sum it all up, conserve, conserve, conserve,” Darden said. “Use the water wisely.”
CRMWD has brought a number of water wells online in an effort to supplement the reservoir water which has been its base supply for many years, according to officials, and efforts to bring the recently constructed water reclamation plant online are still under way.
“The plant, which was supposed to be operational in December, should be coming online soon. That should help a little bit,” Darden said of the facility, which collects and cleans reclaimed water to be mixed back into the city's water supply. “We just have to wait for it to be ready.”
In the meantime, Darden said the Big Spring water treatment facility hasn't been cited for violations in the past several months, an encouraging sign.
“We're certainly knocking on wood at this point. Work on the first phase of the water and wastewater bond project is currently under way, so that part of the equation is looking very good at this point,” he said. “Water customers may have noticed a milky appearance to the water, however, that is not because of a contaminant or anything like that. It's simply air in the water. If you let it sit for a little while, you'll notice the water clears up.
“The main reason for the air in the water is the recent introduction of well water to the water delivered to us from CRMWD. However, it's just an aesthetics nuisance and not a problem as far as the water content is concerned.”