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Water restrictions continue in Cotulla
Limits on residential and commercial use of city water supplies may continue through September in Cotulla, according to utilities supervisor David Wright, who told councilors last week that the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer level continues dropping at a foot per day.
Wright also said he believes the city’s wells have reached the bottom of their reach and may fail if they cannot draw any more water.
“Studies show that from 2001 to the present, with regard to the water table, we are at an all-time low today,” Wright said Thursday, August 11. “That’s why there’s such a concern.”
Cotulla’s Stage 2 water restrictions, as itemized in the municipal drought contingency plan, call for a reduction in water use throughout the city by limiting the days on which residents may water their lawns or landscaping, cutting out all outdoor washing of buildings, sidewalks and driveways; and require that restaurants eliminate dispensing cups of water to all customers unless they ask.
All landscape and lawn irrigation should take place during nighttime hours, according to the city’s conservation plan, to help reduce water loss through evaporation in daytime heat.
Those changes alone, according to both Wright and City Administrator Larry Dovalina last month, may help reduce Cotulla’s water consumption of a typical summertime 1.9 million gallons per day by at least a third.
Restrictions were enacted by councilors last month after Cotulla’s water table dropped close to 525 feet below ground, the point at which an ordinance dictates immediate action be taken to limit water usage.
The city’s water wells are capable of producing as much as 2.5 million gallons per day, according to City Hall, but recent incidents of mechanical failure have shut down at least one well at a time.
A storm passing over Cotulla on August 11 sent lightning strikes to several key components of the city’s water supply system, including the electrical junction boxes at three wells, temporarily putting them out of service. A well on Buckley Street, however, will need repairs before it is brought back online, according to Wright last week.
“We want to safeguard the equipment that we have,” the supervisor told the council at last week’s meeting. “The well at the county courthouse was pumping 1,100 gallons per minute, but with the water table dropping, eventually the pump will pull air and be damaged.
“We can’t just drop the pump further down the well,” he said. “We are at the bottom. New city wells may be capable of going lower, but our older wells get narrower at depth. You just can’t go lower.”
Wright said after Thursday’s council meeting that he does not believe recent rains will have an immediately measurable effect on the city’s water table but noted that steady rainfall during the coming week may persuade residents and local businesses to turn off their irrigation systems and even stop watering plants and lawns with hand-held hoses, thereby conserving city water.
City Hall is prepared to take its water restrictions to further stages if drought conditions continue affecting the supply in the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. Those restrictions include fewer days for landscape irrigation, a shut-down of all automated sprinkler systems, an end to all outdoor washing and a ban on refilling swimming pools, jacuzzis and children’s wading pools.