Tag Archives: CRMWA

Cities’ conundrum: whether to limit water use and cut revenue

Janet Rummel, public relations and communications officer for the North Texas Municipal Water District, has a possible word to the wise to city officials who might be reluctant to enact water-use restrictions in the face of a punishing drought.

If you are concerned about a loss of revenue collected from water use fees, then your reluctance to impose water conservation measures carries even greater risk.

You will run out of water, Rummel warned in remarks to the Rotary Club of Fairview.

Much of the state remains caught in drought conditions. The Texas Panhandle, where my wife and I lived until this past May, went through an entire winter with any measurable precipitation. No snow. No rain. Nothing!

North Texas didn’t fare much better than the Panhandle, as I have learned.

So, cities that are pondering whether to impose restrictions on water use face the mother of conundrums: Do they interfere with their revenue stream, depriving their municipal coffers of money used to fund various public services?

The NTMWD, based in Wylie, serves about a dozen communities north and east of Dallas. Rummel talked about the array of measures that the district has taken to improve the quality of water; it also is planning to spend a significant amount of money to improve the delivering of water.

From my standpoint, a city that faces the prospect of running dry — of losing its water supply — has no choice whatsoever than to impose limits, even if it chokes off the revenue it uses to pay for the myriad municipal services it provides. Moreover, I am amazed that city officials would be so reluctant to take a proactive stance that conserves this priceless natural resource.

And yet, according to Janet Rummel, cities are wringing their hands over such a decision. I find the quandary a non-starter.

Water has returned to top of our minds

Imagine my non-surprise.

The Texas Panhandle drought has gotten us  talking out loud again about water, conserving it, looking for more environmentally sound ways to grow and harvest our crops.

We’re now into a lengthy dry spell with no measurable precipitation. The record is now just a handful of days away. It’s looking as though we’re going to break the record set in 1902. Hey, all records were meant to be broken. Frankly, I’d prefer to see this one stand.

But is Amarillo about to run dry? No. Not even close.

Some aggressive water-rights purchasing over the course of the past decade has enabled Amarillo to maintain a viable water supply. The city in conjunction with the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority — which supplies Amarillo and nearly a dozen other communities with water — acquired many years of water rights from T. Boone Pickens, the former Amarillo oil and natural gas magnate.

Many billions of gallons of water remain undeveloped. It’s under our feet, deep within the Ogallala Aquifer.

We have a serious lesson that needs to be heeded, however.

Our water is not infinite. It won’t last forever. Oh, certainly Amarillo will have water at its disposal for many generations. We can thank an aggressive water-purchasing endeavor led by a municipal management team headed by a city manager, Jarrett Atkinson, with extensive knowledge of water management issues. Atkinson has moved on; he’s now city manager in Lubbock.

The drought that has gripped the Panhandle, though, looks as though it could be worse than it was in 2011, when it got — shall we say — pretty damn severe. Lake Meredith sank to a shockingly low 26-foot depth; it has rallied considerably since then, but the region needs rain badly.

As we wait and perhaps pray for more rain, we at least can rest reasonably assured that Amarillo will stay “wet” for the foreseeable future.

We dare not get wasteful while we wait for a change in our meteorological fortunes.

Water management must remain a top city priority

Maybe I am preaching to the proverbial choir, but I’ll preach¬†this “sermon”¬†anyway.

Amarillo City Council members’ decision to hire Jared Miller as our next city manager came after a discussion of issues that lacked one critical component: water management and conservation.

I don’t know, of course, what council members discussed in executive session with Miller and the four other finalists for the city manager job. Perhaps they talked openly, candidly and freely with them all about an issue that had become a top priority of the man they succeeded, Jarrett Atkinson.

It needs to remain there.

I say this feeling a bit strange, given all the moisture that’s fallen on the High¬†Plains during the past 24 hours. It’s only a drop in the grand scheme of our water needs.

Atkinson came to the city¬†after serving as a water planner for the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission. He is an acknowledged expert on water resources and knowing how to conserve what is without question the most valuable resource we have in this region. I am quite certain he is going to bring that knowledge to bear in Lubbock, where he has just begun as that city’s manager.

The city — working with the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority — has done a great job of securing water rights to keep us flush with water (pun intended, I suppose) for the next couple hundred years. Atkinson played a big role in securing those rights.

The city’s aggressive water-rights-acquisition policy has helped us forestall many of the mandatory water-use restrictions that have been implemented in many cities throughout the state.

The city’s need to conserve and protect this resource doesn’t diminish even with the acquisition of those water rights and the relationship the city has with CRMWA and other water planning entities.

One of the Amarillo city manager’s many duties must be to keep both eyes focused intently on water we’re pulling out of the Ogallala Aquifer and from Lake Meredith.

I will anticipate hearing Jared Miller’s perspective on how we manage the one resource that gives life to the High Plains of Texas.

Did prayer bring the water back to the Panhandle?

lake levels

Let’s flash back to a time just before the 2012 presidential campaign.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was thinking about seeking the Republican nomination. His state was being throttled by a killer drought.

What did he do? He called for Texans to pray. The reaction by the media and many others outside of Texas was quite predictable. Perry drew criticism, even outright scorn. It was a simplistic tactic he sought to employ, critics said.

Four years later, consider this: Texas is no longer in a drought.

Hmmm. How could that’ve happened? Was it, um, prayer — maybe — that did it? Who can say “no” categorically?

Consider the levels at Lake Meredith.¬†The Panhandle’s largest manmade reservoir is filling back up. Last time I noticed, I saw that the lake was at 64 feet. What was it about the time Gov. Perry called for prayer? I believe it was around 26 feet.

There’s more to report. Kent Satterwhite, head of the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, says the quality of Lake Meredith water has improved while the lake levels have increased. Indeed, the levels have improved so dramatically that CRMWA has resumed pumping water to its 11 member communities, including Amarillo.

Look, I’m not going to discount actual scientific factors that have contributed to the increase in moisture in this part of the world. Pacific Ocean currents are helping spur more storms. It’s that El Nino effect, right?

However, neither am I going to discount a more spiritual cause for the turn of events.

I’ve never been able to prove or disprove the impact of a simple act of prayer. I am left to rely on faith, which doesn’t require anyone to prove anything.

Whatever the cause of the return of Lake Meredith’s priceless resource, I’m good with it.

Pumping water saves water? Sure it does

Allow me this admission.

Sometimes — maybe more often than I care to admit — I’m a bit slow on the uptake when it involves certain elements of science.

I’m not a scientist. Or a mathematician. Or an accountant. Numbers and scientific theories boggle me.

So it is with that caveat that I suggest that I am beginning to accept the notion that pumping water out of Lake Meredith to 11 cities throughout the Panhandle actually saves surface water that collects in the lake.


The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority is starting to pump water out of the lake in the wake of recent rainfall that has continued to restore the lake levels to something far greater than puddle designation.

Kent Satterwhite, general manager of CRMWA, said: “Everything we pump out of the lake is one gallon less than we pump out of the (Ogallala) aquifer.” He said it is “really important. The aquifer as you use it, it’s gone. It recharges to some slight degree … So it’s really important to try to preserve it and that’s why the lake is here to take some of the heat off the aquifer.”

Who knew?

Pumping water also maximizes the quality of the water, Satterwhite said. The Canadian River contains salt that evaporates more easily during dry periods.

Lake Meredith’s levels have risen fairly dramatically in recent days. It’s nearly at 50 feet, which is far greater than the 26 feet it measured in 2013. OK, so the lake is¬†now about halfway toward its historic high of 100-plus feet set back in the early 1970s.

I guess I’m trying¬†to express some appreciation¬†of the¬†knowledge that water managers must have to monitor this priceless resource.

The region depends on it at almost every level imaginable. There must be some faith placed in the individuals charged with ensuring we keep it as close to forever as we can.

Let it flow from Lake Meredith?

News that the Texas Panhandle’s leading water authority is going to resume pumping water from Lake Meredith leaves me with decidedly mixed feelings.


The lake is up to 41 feet, about 15 feet higher than its lowest ebb during the late winter months. Lake Meredith now measures 2 percent full, according to state water planners, compared to the zero percent it was registering.

The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority is going to blend lake water with well water underground. The idea is to relieve pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer.

OK. So is it time to tap the lake?

Two percent capacity still isn’t very much, correct? What’s more, the drought that has held in this chokehold for the past four to five years isn’t letting up. Amarillo remains right about at normal precipitation to date for the year. A few weeks of prolonged dryness in these parts and we’ll see counties resuming burn bans.

The water planners at CRMWA are smarter than I am about these things, so I guess I should accept that they know what they’re doing by deciding to pump water from Lake Meredith.

As a layperson who’s watched the lake evaporate over the nearly two decades my wife and I have lived here, it’s a bit troubling to see CRMWA acting so quickly to tap into a water supply that — as we have learned to our dismay — is a finite resource.

Then again, if it relieves pressure on the aquifer, which is another finite resource, then the region’s thirst for water will remain quenched.

Oh, these conflicting emotions about water.

Lake Meredith returning to glory?

What’s with some of this open speculation about the possibility of pumping water out of Lake Meredith, just north of Amarillo?

Don’t even think about it.


The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, which used to pump water from the once-full lake, says it’s risen several feet because of recent rain that’s drenched the Texas Panhandle. Why, it’s up to 36 feet, about 10 feet higher than when it hit its lowest point.

Yeah, that’s a big deal. It’s not such a big deal, though, to signal a return to pumping water from the lake to cities up and down West Texas.

The drought that remains — yes, we’re still in a drought around here — has reduced the quality of the water. Pumping it would require expensive treatment to make the water fully potable.

Besides, let’s remember also that Lake Meredith — even in its replenished state — is still far below its historic high and is unlikely to return to that level any time soon, if ever.

The recent rain has been welcome and well could signal a dramatic turn for the better in our weather pattern. Then again, it might not mean anything at all.

Do we pump water once again from Lake Meredith? Perish the thought.

Rain mustn't stop need to save water

All the rain that’s drenched the Texas Panhandle in recent days has filled our playas and perhaps filled residents with a false sense of security about our future.

Perish the thought.


That drought that got us all worried hasn’t dissipated. It’s still with us. Yes, we’ve erased our year-to-date rain deficit with all that moisture, but that doesn’t mean the need to conserve water is any less crucial.

The blog link attached here notes that local governments continue to place water conservation at or near the top of their agendas. It ought to stay there, perhaps even when — or if — the drought ever is broken.

Amarillo officials boast of the city’s 200- or 300-year water supply. The city has purchased a lot of water rights, along with the rights obtained by the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority. Two or three centuries surely is a long way off and none of us will be around; nor will our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-greats … etc. Heck, I cannot even count the number of “greats” to factor in here.

The point is that we want the region to last well beyond the foreseeable future. Without water, survival is impossible.

Agriculture production accounts for the vast majority of water use in the Panhandle. Therefore, the burden is on the producers to do what they can to save water. The rest of us who want some water to irrigate our lawns or feed our flowers and veggie gardens? We can do our part, too.

Let’s not be lulled into thinking, though, that a good bit of rain makes it all better.

It doesn’t. Not by a long shot.

Water supply excellent … for now

Lynn Tate, head of the High Plains Water District, gave the Rotary Club of Amarillo some good news Thursday.

Amarillo is in excellent shape with regard to its long-term supply of water. We’re in far better shape than almost any other significant city in Texas, he said. T. Boone Pickens once had this idea of pumping water from the Texas Panhandle to places downstate; it didn’t work out, Pickens never found a willing buyer and he ended up selling the water to the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, which quenches Amarillo’s thirst.

We’ve got about 200 years worth of water available to us from the Ogallala Aquifer, which covers several states from Texas to Nebraska and even parts of the Dakotas.

Hey, no problem with water supply.

Should we be complacent? I don’t think so.

I didn’t hear Tate say anything about whether cities — namely Amarillo — should institute mandatory conservation measures.

He seemed curiously serene about it.

I am in no position to question seriously Lynn Tate’s expertise on these matters. He’s a lot more educated than I am on these matters. He grew up in a farming and ranching family in the eastern Panhandle. He went to law school and has had a successful law practice in Amarillo. He’s a first-rate agriculture lawyer.

However, I cannot help but think the city ought to be a tad more proactive in its water conservation efforts than it seems to be at the moment. Same with CRMWA and the High Plains Water District.

Tate did mention that irrigated agriculture accounts for 85 to 90 percent of all water use in the Panhandle, which means there’s little that homeowners in Amarillo can do to prevent the decline in water resources. He also said he believes the aquifer is recharging in some areas and that the water levels are “stabilizing.”

Isn’t it time, though, to discuss openly what we should do to forestall the day when crises arrive and we might not have enough water to take care of our needs?

I know that 200 years is a long way off. We’ll all be gone by then. So will our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. Good stewardship requires us to think even beyond that time, doesn’t it?

Just sayin’.