Lake Brownwood will remain in Stage 3 water restrictions of the Brown County Water Improvement District's Drought Contingency Plan, at least until the water board's next meeting in August.

That was the decision of the water district's board Tuesday night. Board members followed the recommendation of the water district's general manager, Dennis Spinks, who said the lake is a foot away from the Stage 4 "trigger point." The lake is a just under 13 feet below the spillway and falling by about a foot a month, and will likely reach the Stage 4 level by the August board meeting, Spinks said.

But Spinks recommended waiting until the board's August meeting to declare Stage 4, saying that will give the water district and entities that use Lake Brownwood water time to "formulate plans of what Stage 4 means." Details to be worked out include what restrictions would actually be enacted under Stage 4 and making sure the water district and its customers are on the same Drought Contingency Plan.

Spinks noted that Stage 4, from the water district's standpoint, would require a 50 percent reduction in water use. The district can achieve that with irrigation use, Spinks said, but in some cases a 50 percent reduction would cut into the amount of water that households need.

Spinks said earlier that the base for determining a 50 percent reduction would be based on a five-year average, but Spinks said Tuesday night it would be necessary to calculate it on customers' month-to-month use because water use is not the same in summer as it is in winter.

Conserving water was a key point of Tuesday night's discussion, but no one favored banning outdoor watering when Stage 4 is declared. Spinks and board members reiterated earlier statements that restrictions on outdoor watering could be tightened by ways such as reducing the watering hours on the day outdoor watering is allowed and allowing only hand-watering.

The Brookesmith Special Utility District, with 3,600 customers, has reduced water use by 48 percent with a tiered billing system, water board member Dennis Graham noted.

Spinks and board members also discussed the need for uniform enforcement of restrictions. Some lakefront property owners are ignoring restrictions, Spinks said.

Representatives of water customers including the cities of Early, Brownwood, Bangs and Santa Anna, as well as the Brookesmith and Zephyr districts, were at Tuesday's meeting. The representatives said they want to be on board with the water improvement district in water restrictions and a Drought Contingency Plan.

Bangs City Administrator Leo Smith stressed that restrictions need to be countywide.

A 50 percent reduction in water use might not actually be achievable, Spinks said, but it will be a goal at which to aim.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, John Windham was sworn in as a lake patrolman at the Water Improvement District board meeting.