Spence drys up

As West Texans try desperately to conserve water in the face of the ongoing drought, officials with the Colorado River Municipal Water District say they have been forced to stop pumping water from Lake Spence, the second reservoir from its system to fall prey to the lack of rain.Located in Robert Lee, Lake Spence is currently at 0.5 percent capacity, according to CRMWD officials. Spence is the second reservoir to reach critical levels for the water district, with Lake Thomas — currently at 2.21 percent of capacity — having been out of commission since December 2008.With the loss of Lake Spence, CRMWD is forced to rely on Lake O.H. Ivie — currently at 22.51 percent capacity — for all of its surface water, according to John Grant, manager of the local water district.“We’ve been forced to stop pumping water out of Spence,” Grant said. “We’re now relying completely on Lake Ivie and our well field in Ward County for water deliveries.”The water district announced in February it would cut deliveries to customer cities by 10 percent in an effort to conserve water. Several months later — as the drought continued to worsen throughout the region — the water district cut deliveries by 20 percent.The city is currently in Stage 3 of its emergency water conservation plans, implemented by the council to meet CRMWD’s decreases in water delivery. Big Spring City Manager Gary Fuqua said the decreased deliveries would have to reach 34 percent before the council will have to consider moving into Stage 4 of the plan.Grant said it’s currently unclear if deliveries will be cut by more than 20 percent in the coming year.“We plan to look at this again in December or January and evaluate where to go from there,” Grant said. “At our current rate, we project Lake Ivie will last until December 2012 if we don’t get a significant influx of rain. Unfortunately, we haven’t figured out how to make it rain yet.”Grant said efforts to bring a second pipeline from the Ward County fields online are under way, with the project expected to be completed by Jan. 1, 2013. The project, which he estimated at $140 million, along with efforts to build a water reclamation plant in Big Spring could generate 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.”In the meantime, however, Grant said he and other CRMWD officials will continue to monitor water levels and deliveries and take whatever action is necessary to provide for citizens’ “basic needs.”“I think the drought has really opened some people’s eyes to the type of challenges we are facing in West Texas,” he said. “Our goal is to provide for people’s basic needs for water, and that’s a goal we will continue to work toward.“I feel like we’ll be able to get a better idea of what’s to come in December or January. We’ll look at the weather outlook and reservoir levels and decide what action to take in the coming year. Until then, we just have to continue to conserve water as much as possible.”The city of Big Spring has placed heavy restrictions on water use for its customers in the Crossroads areas, allowing outside water use only on Saturdays from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. for residential customers and Tuesdays from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. for businesses.Other restrictions include:Vehicles can only be washed at commercial (including mobile) car wash establishments.No outside watering is allowed except on the designated date and time. However, according to the memo issued Friday, “Potted plants and flower beds can be watered on any day between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. using a watering can (no water hoses).”Washing of “houses, decks, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, etc ... is strictly prohibited.”Violations of these restrictions can be reported by calling 432-264-2548.Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at citydesk@bigspringherald.com