June is normally a rainy time of year for us, but high pressure is creating drought conditions all over the Southwest, and the forecast doesn’t call for it to let up anytime soon.
Victoria is a little luckier than most communities, not only because we’re on a river but because we are in the lower part of the basin, which means we benefit from upstream rainfall and we’re among the last to be affected when the river starts to dry up. However, low rainfall upstream has put us in a state of “low” flow, which means we need to start making some changes to save water.
The normal river flow for this time of year is 995 cubic feet per second. Lately, the flow has been between 200 and 250 cfs. Under the terms of our Texas Commission on Environmental Quality permit, low flow for this time of year is 250 cfs. Once the river drops below this stage, we have to stop pumping, and we enter Stage II of our drought contingency plan.
This doesn’t mean that pumping stops altogether under Stage II. The river still rises above low flow from time to time, and when it does, we start pumping again. However, we will remain in Stage II until the river stays above low flow for 14 consecutive days.
The drought contingency plan is divided into stages of increasing restrictions based on how much we want to decrease our water usage. The restrictions are designed to keep our water usage within our means without placing an undue burden on residents’ quality of life or livelihoods.
During Stage II, we should use 5% less water than we normally do. At this stage, certain types of water use are limited to 6-10 a.m. and 8 p.m.-midnight. When you run a sprinkler during the heat of the day, you can lose as much as 50% of your water to evaporation, so doing it during cooler hours is very helpful.
Activities that are limited to these cooler hours include using an automatic lawn sprinkler or hose-end sprinkler, filling pools and washing vehicles (although this restriction does not apply to commercial car washes and service stations). Residents can water their lawns with hoses at any time of day, as long as the hose has a positive shut-off nozzle. A full list of drought restrictions can be found at www.victoriatx.gov/droughtplan.
If we have to stop pumping from the river for a long period of time, we have other water sources we can use, but since those sources are not as plentiful, we would need to reduce our water use by a greater amount. Restrictions at higher stages of the drought plan include scheduling “designated watering days,” stopping landscape watering altogether and closing car washes, depending on how much we are trying to reduce our water usage.
We are all connected to the same river, and we can weather this drought if we all watch our water usage. In addition to following the restrictions, residents can save water by using efficient appliances, repairing leaks and not overwatering their yards. If you are trying to keep your soil wet to protect your foundation, just watering around the edge of your house will do the trick.
If you see your neighbor running a sprinkler in the middle of the day, remind them to do their part to save water during this dry weather. To report a violation of the drought restrictions, you can contact Code Enforcement at 361-485-3330.