Arington TX Residents set a one-day mark for water : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2000 at 01:06 CDT

Records of summer: Hot weather affects water usage, Lake Arlington; Residents set a one-day mark by drawing 128 million gallons. By Sammy Allen and Kim Durnan Star-Telegram staff writers

ARLINGTON -- Hot, dry weather is breaking both water mains and the city's water usage record, Arlington officials said this week as they predicted more than 3 billion gallons will be used during the month of August.

It also has raised concerns about the water level at Lake Arlington, and City Council members last night discussed taking a stronger stand on the city's contract with the Tarrant Regional Water District, which provides water to the lake.

On Saturday, 128 million gallons of water -- the most ever in one day -- were used by Arlington residents, said Charles Anderson, the city's director of water utilities. The previous record was 121 million gallons on July 31, 1998. Average daily water use is 111 million gallons.

Anderson said there is no immediate danger of depleting the city's water sources -- Cedar Creek and Richland- Chambers reservoirs, which are part of the Tarrant Regional Water District.

But the water district pumps water from those reservoirs into Lake Arlington as part of its contract with the city, and council members questioned yesterday whether the terms of that contract are being enforced.

For years, Arlington City Council members have debated whether the city's contract with the water district requires the district to maintain a water elevation of 545 feet at Lake Arlington. The contract stipulates that when the lake level dips below 545, the district must replace the water as soon as is feasible.

The current water level is 543.82 feet. Councilman Robert Cluck said the low water level puts the city in a hazardous situation.

"I'm frankly really tired of messing with this issue, and I want us to take some strong action," Cluck said. "This is more than recreational boating. They have a contractual obligation to us, and there is a 30-day emergency supply for the entire system. There is no reason for us not to get the water in the lake we need."

Water district officials have said the contract does not require that the lake level always remain at 545 feet or above. They maintain that Arlington would bear any additional costs associated with raising the lake level.

Councilman Steve McCollum agreed with Cluck and said the city needs to get the issue resolved with the water district.

"When the lake goes below 535 feet, then I'm ready to tell those folks to turn those pumps on right now or face the consequences," he said. "I'm ready for it to come to a stop."

Thirty-one days of triple- digit temperatures and 52 days without rain are the crucial factors determining the amount of water used and the added stress to city water lines. Stifling conditions also have firefighters feeling the heat and taking precautions.

"For the last month we've had quite a few main line water breaks due to the ground being dry and the increased demand for water," said John Durbin, an operations manager for Arlington. "If the soil contains a lot of clay, it likes to crack and separate."

Anderson said the problems occur every summer and that Arlington is faring better than some other Texas cities. The average monthly total water usage in Arlington is 1.4 billion gallons. So far in August, 2.3 billion gallons have already been used.

"Most breaks we have occur in the small, 6-inch pipes in the east part of town where there is black clay soil," Anderson said.

He said as city workers repair broken water lines, they take note of where the older lines are and put them on a replacement list. The replacement work is put out for bid and paid for from the city's $1,040,000 water line renewal fund.

The heat has not affected other utilities that serve Arlington. A Southwestern Bell spokeswoman said there have been no problems with underground telephone lines.

John Walls, spokesman for TXU Electric & Gas, said so far there are no problems with underground gas and electric lines.

The only relief in sight, said Larry Nierenberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, is the chance of a few isolated showers.

"We are only about 1.65 inches below normal for this year" in the Fort Worth-Dallas area, he said. "We had a very wet June that put us about 3 inches above normal. If we don't get any rain by Tuesday, Aug. 29, we will break our 58- day record for the number of consecutive days without rain."

The heat has Arlington firefighters taking precautions because of the dangers in hot, dry weather. Firefighters wear thick, fire-resistant clothing and carry heavy gear, making their work nearly unbearable during the summer months.

"It's a lot harder, and we're using more manpower," said Arlington Fire Department spokesman Marvin Schafer. "If it looks like we can't put it out in five to 10 minutes, we're going to call for a second alarm to give them some relief."

Three engines, one truck and a battalion chief are sent to every alarm, a total of about 17 people.

Schafer said during a drill at Maverick Stadium on July 14, two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion -- one at a local hospital and one on the scene at Maverick Stadium.

"We are getting into a situation where if we don't get some significant rain soon, we are going to start seeing more grass fires, especially in the south part of town where there are still some open grassy fields," Schafer said. "Just discarding a cigarette can start a major fire."

Monthly water usage totals since April

April - 1.4 billion gallons.

May - 1.7 billion gallons.

June - 1.6 billion gallons.

July - 2.8 billion gallons.

August - 2.3 billion gallons so far.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 23, 2000

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