Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Despite Some Rain, Drought Still Grips Texas Towns

A car tire lays exposed in the dried lake bottom at Lake Abillene near Abilene, Texas.


A car tire lays exposed in the dried lake bottom at Lake Abillene near Abilene, Texas.

Summer brought no relief from drought in many parts of Northwest Texas. But storms related to Hurricane Odile could bring some much needed rain. The region, like much of Texas, has been struggling with drought for years. Now some communities there are now faced with a difficult task: find new water, or go dry.

Take the small Texas town of Gordon. Kenneth Epperson works for the Water Department there. By the end of August, the town had about four months of water left for close to 800 users. So he’s looking at his options, one of which is possibly getting water from a local rancher who has a lake on his land and bring it to the town treatment plant via pipeline.

Gordon is just one of many towns facing the prospect of running dry, and because the crisis is regional, stretching across city and county lines, officials are needing to get creative when considering new supplies. “You know, all over, this northwest Texas is kind of in a bind,” Epperson says.

For example, Epperson says his town has grant money to tie into the nearby Lake Palo Pinto Municipal Water District. But that water system is running dry, too.

“We are at about 15 percent capacity, and we have about a year left in our lake,” says Lance Howerton, City Manager for Mineral Wells, which draws from Palo Pinto.

Howerton is considering tapping a city-owned reservoir. But there’s a problem there, too.

“That has a limited value to it because Lake Mineral Wells is quite low as well. But it does give us an additional six months or so of water,” he says.

Other options include desalination of water from the Brazos River, or buying water from another town to their east: Weatherford, Texas. They’re part of the Tarrant Regional Water System, which has reservoirs going into East Texas, a wetter part of the state.

Whether water is pulled from dwindling local supplies or brought in from wetter East Texas, Howerton says it will mean the same thing for ratepayers: The price of water is going up for the drought-stricken citizens of Northwest Texas.


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