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The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) has provided water to more than 1.6 million in its 13 member cities for quite some time. However, three main factors – denied access, drought and growth – have recently put a serious stranglehold on its water supplies.

Concerns about water usage and available supply continue to be a growing concern for Rockwall County communities, but these three major factors aren’t exactly something NTMWD customers can do much about. In fact, the only reasonable measure local customers can take seem to lie within the practice of restricted water usage.

The invasion of water mussels has cut off access to 28 percent of the total raw water supply from Lake Texoma for the last five years, the equivalent of the City of Dallas losing access to more than the Lake Ray Hubbard capacity.

In addition, long-term drought conditions and regional population growth continue to contribute to the declining water supply. Lake Lavon – currently sitting at 50 percent capacity – would currently be at 75 percent capacity, meaning water restrictions would be at Stage 2, if the zebra mussel issue had not occurred.

According to an outlook provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), drought conditions are expected to continue – and likely worsen – through the end of 2014.

Lake Lavon hasn’t seen its full conservation level since May 2012 while Jim Chapman Lake is setting a new historical drought mark, being below its conservation level for almost five years, dating back to March 2010.

NTMWD member cities have enforced Stage 3 watering restrictions, which limit landscape watering with sprinklers and irrigation systems to just once every two weeks.

Population growth will likely continue to put a strain on water supplies, as the regional growth has increased 100 percent in the last two decades and by 50 times since the NTMWD was formed in 1956.

When it began, the district served 32,000 customers, a number that has risen to more than 1.6 million today and is anticipated to hit more than 3.7 million in the year 2070.

However, NTMWD continues to meet the needs of its customers despite serving one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.

A long-term water plan has been put into place, and the NTMWD is also pursuing the proposed Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, which is anticipated to be online in 2020.

More information about the long-term water plan and the proposed reservoir can be found by visiting the NTMWD website at ntmwd.com.

For water conservation tips, or to test your “Water IQ,” visit northtexaswateriq.org.

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