Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Options Drying Up For Some Parched North Texas Towns

A tree trunk is exposed where water used to be in Bridgeport Lake, which is over thirty feet (9 meters) below normal levels, in Bridgeport, Texas, USA, 04 September 2013.


A tree trunk is exposed where water used to be in Bridgeport Lake.

Although parts of the state saw massive amounts of rain in October, parched conditions remain a dismal reality for many north Texas towns.

In September, StateImpact spoke with people in two towns – Gordon and Mineral Wells – both scrambling for alternative water sources. Gordon had about four months of water left at the end of August according to the city’s utilities director, Kenneth Epperson.

We recently checked in with Epperson, who says the early autumn months brought no relief.

“We think we’ve got ‘till January the 15th,” he says.

The town had been considering tapping into a lake owned by a local rancher. Unfortunately, that may no longer be an option.

“His is pretty low too; so we’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place,” says Epperson.

Just like Gordon, the water situation in Mineral Wells hasn’t improved since August. City Manager Lance Howerton says the city’s main water source, the Palo Pinto Reservoir, remains low.

“It’s close to 11 [percent full] at this point.”

Unlike Gordon, Mineral Wells seems to have some plans in the works. Tapping into Lake Mineral Wells and desalinating water from the Brazos River are two options for the town. A third proposal,  involving tapping into the neighboring town of Weatherford, has been ruled out due to projected cost.

“In the next 60 days, the water district will be making some decisions to move forward one or both of those two remaining strategies,” says Howerton.

Storms that passed over the region in the wake of Hurricane Odile in September, illustrated just how unpredictable rainfall in Texas can be. While Gordon and Mineral Wells continue to struggle, other Texas towns have saw major improvements in drought conditions.

Drive two hours West Gordon and you’ll find the city of Snyder, Texas, whose reservoir soaked up more than 30 feet of rain thanks to Hurricane Odile, according to the Texas Water Development Board.

The J.B. Thomas Reservoir increased from one 1 percent to almost 50 percent full thanks to massive rainfall. Snyder, also drought-stricken, reportedly tapped into the reservoir soon after the downpour. Other cities including Midland and Odessa are waiting for pumps to become operational before taking advantage of J.B. Thomas.

In the absence of a strategy to bring in more water, the City of Gordon’s Epperson says all he can do is hope for a similar storm to strike over his town.

“We all keep-a-hopin’. We’re just seeing ‘till December; and we if don’t get some [rain] we’ll see about doing something else,” says Epperson.



About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »