After a lingering drought and weeks of 100-plus temperatures, Houston, Texas on Monday moved to stage two of its water conservation plan, which requires mandatory compliance with the city’s water conservation measures. Under stage one, compliance with the city’s water conservation efforts was voluntary.
Under Houston’s stage two plan, residents are restricted to watering their lawns between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. two days a week. Residents with even-numbered addressed are allowed to water on Sundays and Thursdays. Residents with odd-numbered addresses are allowed to water on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
Residents are also required to fix water leaks within 72 hours.
Failure to fix leaks or comply with the mandatory water restrictions may result in fines ranging from $150 to as high as $2,000 for subsequent violations.
The move to mandatory water restrictions in Houston follows similar efforts across Texas as record-breaking heat waves and droughts cause water levels to continue to decline throughout the state.
Earlier this month, the North Texas Municipal Water District declared a Stage 2 Drought emergency for its 13 member cities across suburban Dallas. The move signaled member cities to begin implementing water conservation strategies. In Plano, for example, water conservation restrictions will be enforced beginning Aug. 19. Residents there will face restrictions similar to those in Houston, as well as fines.
For an extreme example, there’s Kemp, a small town on the shore of Cedar Creek Reservoir. Last week, Mayor Donald Kile shut down the municipal water system. The reservoir ran out of water. Completely. “No water. Zero water,” Kile said in an interview.
In Kemp, the worst-case-scenario was hastened by city planning issues — the water treatment plant that takes untreated water from Cedar Creek Lake is 40 years old and much of the town’s 30 miles of pipeline is from the 1930s and hasn’t been updated in years. In Houston, avoiding an escalated water emergency means turning to a neighbor to the north to stabilize Lake Houston’s declining water level.
On Monday, Houston notified the San Jacinto River Authority that it will be taking water from Lake Conroe. Houston, which built Lake Conroe with taxpayer money in the 1960s, has a two-thirds share in the water rights, and began releasing water from Lake Conroe into Lake Houston on Tuesday at noon. It was the first time that Houston has drawn water from Lake Conroe since 1988.
The initial release from Lake Conroe totaled 50 million gallons and will be gradually increased to 150 million gallons a day. Overall, the water level in Lake Conroe is expected to lower from 5 inches to 6 inches a week. Lakefront property owners have been advised to watch water levels to determine if they need to move their boats.
5 Tips for Conserving Water
Houston’s public works department provides five tips to help residents reduce water use:
- Make sure to keep your showers under five minutes
- While brushing your teeth, make sure to keep the water turned off when you’re not using it
- When running your dishwasher and clothes washer, make sure to wash full loads whenever possible
- Check your toilets for leaks or poor plunger seals that allow your toilet to run between flushes
- Replace older shower heads and faucets with newer models that promote less water use, such as low-flow shower heads
In addition to helping residents save water, Houston has also implemented its own steps to use less water during the current conservation period:
- Suspended scheduled window washing
- Suspended the scheduled power washing of buildings, sidewalks and parking areas
- Discontinued washing city vehicles and equipment except when required for health, safety or critical maintenance reasons
- Ordered an audit of all irrigation systems to check for leaks and make sure the timers and sprinkle heads are operating properly
For More Information
For more information about water conservation or water restrictions in Houston, residents are encouraged to call 311.
For additional water-saving tips:
“Water Restrictions in Wake of Extended Heat, Drought,” WFAA-TV, Aug. 1, 2011.
“North Texas Town Turns Off Water,” KVUE-TV, Aug. 8, 2011.
“Houston Issues Mandatory Water Restrictions,” KPRC-TV, Aug. 15, 2011.
“Officials Releasing 50 Million Gallons of Lake Conroe into Lake Houston,” KVUE-TV, Aug. 16, 2011.
The City of Houston: Public Works and Engineering website, “Education and Outreach Program.”