By Elsa Maxey
Lakes in Fort Bend communities are drying up, and in other parts of the state, residents are living under threats of wildfires. Reducing the strain on water systems has called for restrictions, mostly voluntary locally, but now one water supplier in Fort Bend County has issued mandatory restrictions and not following them will be subject to a penalty. This month, the city of Houston also issued mandatory water restrictions, and they may affect Fort Bend County residents that live in Houston, but in this jurisdiction.
Every water provider in Fort Bend County, as is the case in Texas, is required to have a Drought Contingency Plan to determine at what point to declare water usage restrictions. The triggers for the declarations are based on well water pumping percentages, i.e. 3 days of consecutive pumping from a well at a certain percentage, then 2 days of consecutive,18-hours of pumping, etc. Wells need a time period in which to rest, maintains a water operator.
First Colony MUD No. 9
Joe Taylor, Superintendent of the Quail Valley Utility District operating First Colony MUD (Municipal Utility District) No. 9, advises that there are over 2,688 water connections for the First Colony MUD No.9. Customers served by this MUD are now under mandatory water restrictions.
That accounts for over 8,000 Missouri City residents since all of MUD No. 9 is in that city.
Last week on Wednesday, Stage 2 of the Drought Contingency Plan for this MUD was implemented and it took effect immediately after a brief Stage One period, said Taylor.
Prohibitions at this time include:
• Washing down sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking lots, tennis courts or other hard-surfaced areas
• Washing down buildings or structures other than for immediate fire protection
• Using water for dust control
• Flushing gutters or allowing water to run or accumulate in gutters or streets
• Failing to repair a water leak within a reasonable period after notice has been given about the needed repair
First Colony MUD No.9 also has limits for irrigating landscaped areas with sprinklers—like doing it certain days of the week in accordance with address number endings, and only between midnight and 10 a.m. and between 8 p.m. and midnight. These limits also apply to washing cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, trailers, even airplanes and other vehicles, and only with hand-held buckets and hoses.
If you live in this MUD district, in order to fill or add water to indoor or outdoor swimming pools, wading pools or Jacuzzi-type pools, you’ll have to wait for the designated watering days. Also, no ornamental fountain or pond for scenic purposes is allowed, except to support aquatic life or when the fountains and ponds have recirculation systems.
Fire hydrant water use is limited to fire fighting, and when necessary to maintain public health, safety and welfare. Restaurant business customers are also prohibited from serving water to patrons, except when requested. The water district may be called for more information at 281-499-5539, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In the meantime, Sugar Land reports that due to the ongoing drought conditions and the statewide disaster proclamation from Governor Rick Perry, earlier this summer it asked residents, businesses, and homeowners associations to voluntarily cut back on outdoor water usage to help spread and balance peak water demands. On Monday, Sugar Land spokesperson Doug Adolph said that although the city has ample groundwater supplies, “the TCEQ has requested all Brazos basin water users voluntarily reduce water use to help ensure an adequate water supply.” Sugar Land’s Voluntary Water Use Schedule is intended to distribute customers’ water use throughout the week and throughout the day. The city reports that 60% of its water demand is used for irrigation and changing irrigation times reduces the early morning demand coupled with twice a week watering, which distributes water use and reduces drastic water use spikes in demand.
Adolph said that the city’s system is designed to deliver adequate water, but “when everyone uses the water during the same time period, on the same day of the week, the pumps and production system become stressed.” Check the Sugar Land’s website for specific tips. For example, grass in the shade may need water only once per week. There’s also a Sugar Land W.I.S.E. Guys program for evaluating irrigation systems.
Meadows Place Mayor Charles Jessup advises that its city “has no restrictions and does not foresee the need to call for restrictions in the immediate future.”
Missouri City, already affected by the First Colony MUD No. water restrictions, reports that this is the only water supplier with mandatory restrictions about which it is aware. “The remaining either are asking their customers for voluntary conservation or no restrictions at all,” said Communications Director Barbara Brescian. Missouri City has 16 MUDs and two water control and improvement districts providing water to residents.
One of those water control and improvement districts, Fort Bend WCID No. 2, serves a portion of Missouri City and all of the residents in Stafford. It reports that it has not issued water restrictions, voluntary or mandatory, to its customers. Due to many years of planning, it also indicates it has an adequate water supply and infrastructure. “We are permitted to pump two billion gallons of water annually, we have an additional four billion gallons per year (of) available water supply,” said Owen Matherne, General Manager. However, Matherne said the district is asking customers that even with this surplus of water “to conserve and not waste this precious resource.”
On the other side of the Brazos, the City of Rosenberg said it is not currently under any water restrictions. “Due to the drought, we are encouraging residents to be smart about their water usage,” said Rosenberg’s Communications Director Angela E. Fritz. “We monitor our water system continually,” she said, noting that the city would implement necessary restrictions in accordance with its Drought Contingency Plan. Not unlike other water providers, Rosenberg’s first step called for in the plan is voluntary restrictions.
Fort Bend County’s seat, Richmond, does not have any water restrictions at this time. “Not currently,” said City Manager Teri Vela, and “we are just watching and monitoring the situation daily and when we reach our threshold,” the Stage One voluntary restrictions will be declared. Vela said that would mean operating three days at 75 percent peak pumpage.
The City of Fulshear in northwest Fort Bend County has voluntary water rationing underway as per Stage One of its Drought Contingency Plan. Residents, businesses, and homeowner associations are being asked to voluntarily cut back on all outdoor water usage to help balance peak water demands.