Despite rains, Victoria set to enter next stage of drought plan

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

July 21, 2013 at 2:21 a.m.
Updated July 22, 2013 at 2:22 a.m.

The more than 2.5 inches of rain Victoria saw this week was enough to lift the county burn ban but not enough to stop the progression of the city's emergency drought plan.

Because the city started exchanging groundwater for river water Thursday, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires the next stage of the drought plan - restricting the days residents can water - to be enacted, Public Works Director Lynn Short said.

"We've enjoyed some recent rainfall, but we haven't seen a significant change in the river levels," he said.

To avoid entering Stage 3, the Guadalupe River would need to keep a capacity above 300 cubic feet per second for 14 consecutive days and the city would have to stop the groundwater exchange.

While the river peaked at 300 Thursday, Short is not optimistic it will last.

"I expect it will turn and go back below within a very short period," he said. "I don't anticipate that this will be the start of recovery. I'm hoping it is, but we'll just have to see."

Some rain is forecast for the early part of this week, but it is expected to start drying out by Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The city council is expected to vote Aug. 6 whether to come into compliance with state rules, which requires Stage 3 to go into effect now that groundwater exchange is being used, Short sad.

Stage 3 would allow homes with even addresses to water only on Thursdays and Sundays. Homes with odd numbered addresses could water only on Wednesdays and Sundays.

"Many cities in Texas are in much deeper stages of their drought plan," Short said. "We need to make plans to go there if the drought warrants it."

Joe Bland, a 57-year-old Victoria accountant, waters his yard in North Victoria three times a week. Any more watering than that is foolish as it make the grass' roots shallow, he said.

"If our leaders have determined that it is time to implement it (the drought plan), I'd rather they do it sooner rather than later," Bland said.

He believed the current hours city residents are confined to watering is fair to everyone and expected more of the same under the new guidelines.

Albert J. Pena, owner of Call Albert Landscaping, which has operated in Victoria for 10 years, was both happy and sad by the prospect of the elevated drought stage.

Pena, 75, and his employees pull up four - and sometimes more - dead trees a week.

Continuing at or exceeding this pace helps his business because he charges a customer anywhere from $250 to $3,500 for the service, depending on the tree's size and location.

"The drought has helped me in a way, but I don't like for the trees to die," he said, preferring a greener Victoria.

He recognized, though, that water must be conserved for drinking.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a proclamation July 12 renewing the certification that drought conditions pose a threat of imminent disaster in several counties.

According to information from TCEQ, 1,021 cities in 176 counties limited water use as of July 17.

Every major city in Texas - including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth Houston and San Antonio - are limiting water use either voluntarily or with mild restrictions.

The majority of water restrictions appear to be along the Interstate 35 corridor between San Antonio and Denton, according to a TCEQ drought map.

The city has had to pump water on some of its smaller but older water rights.

The city previously did this in 2009 and 2011.

"Instead of switching to well water and putting that into our piping network, we pump it into our storm sewer conveyance system into the Guadalupe and exchange that for a like amount of surface water," Short said.

Because the city's water plant is designed to treat surface water, changing types of water would mean having to flush the system.

Advocate reporters Jessica Priest and Bianca Montes contributed to this story.



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