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More in Texas being required to ration water Galveston among communities instituting mandatory limits


Associated Press

Texans in the east and southeast parts of the state are beginning to feel the pinch of water-rationing as the summer heat intensifies and drought continues.

The Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission says 159 state public water supply systems have implemented mandatory or voluntary conservation efforts so far this year.

Most of the affected utilities are in northeast and Central Texas. But in recent weeks, more communities in southeast and East Texas have been forced to put such measures into place.

The number of water systems implementing conservation efforts this year isn't as high as in 1996, when the number peaked at 352, or 1998, when it peaked at 317.

"We haven't peaked yet this year," said Mike Lannen, program administrator with the TNRCC's public drinking water department. "It's the time of year we're seeing an increase now. Normally, the high usage times of the year for water systems are in August and September."

Statewide reservoir levels were 27.18 million acre-feet of water in June, about 79 percent of capacity. This was the third-lowest percentage of capacity for June in 23 years.

Galveston is one of several southeast and East Texas communities that has recently been forced to ask or order residents to restrict water use.

"Demand is going to be pretty high for the rest of the summer," said Wes Swift, spokesman for the city of Galveston, which last week instituted mandatory water-rationing measures that allow residents to water their lawns only for a few hours two days a week.

Four communities that buy water from Galveston  Hitchcock, Santa Fe, Jamaica Beach and Tiki Island Village  are also under mandatory rationing. People caught violating the rationing efforts face fines of up to $500.

"For us, water is a very finite resource," Mr. Swift said. "We can't afford not to monitor or issue fines. We haven't had any citations yet, but we've given about 30 to 40 warnings. Citizens will call us when neighbors are not rationing."

Mr. Swift said Galveston usually sees its demand for water increase in July because that's when the tourist season peaks. But this year, the city has had problems getting its water allotment from the Southeast Water Purification Plant  which is owned by the city of Houston  because of increased demand from other communities, he said.

In the small East Texas communities of Allentown and Central, just outside of Lufkin, residents were asked to begin cutting down on their water usage, and officials are hopeful the restrictions won't become mandatory.

"We're concerned and we're watching it carefully," said Wayne Rice, general manager of the Central Water Control and Improvement District, which serves about 2,000 homes.

Meanwhile, Throckmorton, which is installing 21 miles of pipeline to keep from running out of water, got a boost Wednesday when the private Meadows Foundation in Dallas announced a grant of $50,000 so the project could be completed.

Residents of Throckmorton and volunteers are putting in the pipeline to nearby Elbert so the city can receive up to 125,000 gallons of water per day until its water source  Lake Throckmorton, which has been hit by three years of drought  is refilled. The pipeline is expected to be operational by Sept. 1.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 28, 2000

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