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Victoria officials enact second phase of drought plan

By Melissa Crowe
July 2, 2013 at 2:02 a.m.

Now in the second stage of an emergency drought plan, Victoria officials enacted strict rules Tuesday concerning water usage.

The city is enforcing times in which residents can water lawns, wash vehicles or use water for any nonessential purpose.

Using water in off-hours could land violators a $500 fine, said Public Works Director Lynn Short.

Short said the plan is designed to minimize water evaporation.

"Hopefully, we'll get some rainfall either here or above us in the watershed, and the (Guadalupe) river level will come back up, and we'll be able to come out of this Stage II," Short said.

Before the city can return to Stage 1 of voluntarily limiting water use, the Guadalupe River must be above the "trigger level" for 14 consecutive days, Short said.

In July, the river's trigger level is 300 cubic-feet-per-second, or a flow above 134,600 gallons per minute.

"In laymen's terms, our permit to draw river water from the state has environmental flow restrictions in it," Short said.

The restrictions are set to protect the river's habitats and downstream water rights.

Victoria residents are asked to practice water conservation at every opportunity.

Short has asked permission from the state to put groundwater in the river, a process known as "groundwater exchange."

He said that might be the factor in Victoria weathering the drought effectively.

Although the city has never gone farther than Stage II, Short said the entire plan has five stages.

If conditions do not improve, residents could see day limitations on watering, bans on watering or even water rationing, he said.

Area businesses that rely on water are seeing the effects of the drought.

Jacob Jaime, owner of Tejas Curb Appeal, a Victoria landscaping company, said customers, more than the business, are feeling the impact of the drought restrictions.

He said the business is answering lots of calls for automated sprinkler systems as well as for repairs to those systems.

"They're made to be more efficient," he said. "The water runoff is cut way back."

Albert Pena, who has owned Call Albert Landscaping LLC for the past decade, said he is seeing more dead trees and plants across Victoria than ever.

"They're weak because of the drought," he said.

Trees full with leaves are especially susceptible to fallen limbs, he said.

"When all this drought started, I saw a lot of dead trees," he said. "Now, it's all over Victoria. You see them alive, and then all of a sudden, they're dead."

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