In late June multiple Brown County municipalities announced water restriction plans, but despite levels continuing to fall Brown County Water Improvement District General Manager John Allen believes there is no need to panic.
The BCWID provides water to Brownwood, Early, Bangs and various other smaller cities and unincorporated towns and met with its various leaders last month to establish a drought plan only as a precautionary measure with much of area, as well as the state, experience ongoing drought conditions.
“Even at the stage 1 restrictions we’re in right now, with the calculations our engineers have run on that, we could go four years without rain in our lake and we would still have water,” Allen said. “This is precautionary. That’s all it is. We might hit stage 2 by the end of the summer. It’s hard to predict because you do not know what kind of rain you are going to get between now and then.”
When BCWID met with city officials in June, water levels at Lake Brownwood sat around 76.1 percent and since then dropped to 72.9 percent, according to waterdatafortexas.org. The same organization reported water levels at 99.4 percent this time last year, but Allen said there is nothing unnatural about the falling lake levels and believes a forecasted wet winter will balance the scales at the end of the year.
“June is usually one of our wettest months of the year, but we did not have a lot of rain in June,” he said. “It’s hard to predict what the rain is going to do. The long-range forecast is predicting a wet winter for us, and if that happens, we will be full again and going. We’re just at the mercy of what Mother Nature is going to do with us.”
At present, Lake Brownwood is 5.9 feet below the height above conservation pool – a term used to define when a reservoir is considered full. At 8 feet, municipalities under the BCWID will move to stage 2, where the voluntary restrictions become mandatory, and as the lake levels drop the restrictions become increasingly strict.
“We’re still in good shape with that,” Allen said. “Stage 1 is voluntary restrictions. We’re just asking people to cut back, fix leaks. When you’re watering the grass, don’t let it go down the street — that kind of stuff. We’re at 5.8-feet low right now. When we hit 8 foot low we will enter stage 2 of our drought contingency plans, which are mandatory restrictions.”
At stage 3 the BCWID increases water restrictions to a 15 percent reduction, then 30 percent at stage 4, which is at 11 feet. The lowest Lake Brownwood has reached in recent memory came in 2015, when lake levels reached 17 feet below the conservation pool.”
“We’re six-tenths below stage 1 right now,” Allen said. “Once we get down to 8-foot low, we enter stage 2, which is a mandatory 15 percent reduction. The next stage is another 3 feet lower and we’re asking for a 30 percent reduction. We were about 17-foot low a few years back during a big drought and that is the lowest we’ve been in our lifetime. We will not hit that.”
While requesting water reduction is an easy stopgap for conserving water in a drought, Allen said it comes out of necessity in order to offset evaporation. Allen said evaporation is the largest contributor to falling lake levels and there is not much the BCWID can do to halt Mother Nature.
“Evaporation gets you more than anything else we do,” Allen said. “Evaporation is tremendous. We lose more to evaporation than we do selling to the customers. The idea is to conserve what we can so it will last longer once we start going down. That’s normal summer time. You get hot, 100-degree days and a little bit of wind. You’re going to lose it to evaporation no matter what you do. We can help that a little bit by doing the conservation tips we’re asking people to do. When the rains come, the lake will come back up.”