Yes. Due to significant requirements from state and local agencies, this project will cost at least $350 million and take fifteen to twenty years to build.
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Up to this point, the City has been writing warnings to residents and businesses found violating the ordinance when it was triggered in January. Due to the water levels exceeding 65% in March, staff wrote warnings. As we enter irrigation season, with lake levels lower than 65% and expected to continue to lower, citations will be issued.
Employees from the Water Distribution Department are now patrolling the City. During their patrol, if a customer is observed violating drought restrictions, an orange "WATER VIOLATION OBSERVED," notice will be left at the property with a box checked outlining the violation. If a violation is issued to a business, it will be issued to the manager on duty at the time of the violation or, after hours, the manager identified as the on-site manager at the location where the violation occurred.
Employees who issue citations will never:
-Knock on your door to speak with you
- Ask to come inside your home
-Ask for payment
Employees who issue citations will only:
-Take a photo of the violation occurring
-Leave the orange "WATER VIOLATION OBSERVED" on your door handle
All City employees will be in uniform with a City logo and their name on the front.
You will receive a summons in the mail from the City of Wichita Falls Municipal Court. The summons will include the required appearance date and a copy of the water violation ticket.
The best way to report a violation is through the City's "Report a Concern" program on the website's homepage. https://clients.comcate.com/newrequest.php?id=34
In January 2018, the City completed a $35 million Indirect Potable Reuse project that takes all our wastewater effluents to Lake Arrowhead for storage and ultimate use. This project will recycle up to 16 million gallons per day.
The city cut expenses where feasible, but the cuts do not come close to making up the deficit. For example, non-fixed costs (electricity, treatments, chemicals, etc.) are cut as the lower volume of water is treated. Basically, every $1 loss in water sales due to lower consumption reduces discretionary expenditures by only $.25. Fixed costs (labor, debt service on bonds, required maintenance) remain roughly the same, regardless of the water used.
Water treatment facilities must be run 24/7/365 days a year with minimum staffing required by the state, no matter how much water is sold. The City is also required to pay the annual debt costs for the bonds issued for the numerous projects such as the microfiltration and reverse osmosis plant. Additionally, the City still has to fix broken water lines and make other emergency repairs to the system to keep it functional.
Water rates had to be increased to meet unfunded state and federal mandates, supply and material price increases, fuel price increases, and electricity and gas hikes.
In 2013, City staff modified the rate structure so that more fixed costs are front-loaded or reflected in the base water charge everyone pays, even before the first gallon of water is sold. This is commonly referred to as a "readiness to serve charge." The obvious advantage of doing this is that it flattens the "peaks and valleys" as we sell dramatically more or less water yearly, making our revenue stream more predictable.
Rest assured, this problem is not just the Wichita Falls phenomenon. It is happening everywhere. Numerous public water systems across the State of Texas are in some form of drought restrictions, as we are triggering drought restrictions here in Wichita Falls.
The average residential water bill in Wichita Falls (water only, not trash, stormwater fee, etc.) is currently between $28 and $46 per month. This maintains three lakes that supply our water, several pump stations and pipelines to move lake water to the City's two treatment plants, the actual treatment of the water to state and federal standards, the maintenance of hundreds of miles of distribution system pipeline and for the meter reading and billing to 35,000 customers. According to JD Power and Associates, the average monthly cell phone bill for an individual (in 2012) was $71. They further reported that their total cell phone bill could easily top $200/month for a family of four with smartphones. According to Consumer Reports, the average monthly Cable TV bill in 2014 was more than $120. Natural gas and electricity prices are also higher than a monthly water bill. Water is one of the most economical products we use compared to these standard fees.
The bill you receive indicates the previous and current meter readings. The difference between these numbers yields the consumption or Units. Each Unit equals 748 gallons.
A CCF is 100 cubic feet of water or 748 gallons, also called a Unit.
The billing system is set up to use cubic feet. To convert the system to gallons would require all meters to be changed and the billing system to be replaced.
The City began restoring the water supply during the last two droughts (1995 - 2000 and 2011 - 2015). The City constructed the Microfiltration/Reverse Osmosis plant, which enabled us to bring Lake Kemp online as a water source, providing an additional 10 million gallons of water daily. Without this supply, the impacts of the last drought would have been much more dramatic. The City also began pursuing the Reuse Projects in April of 2012, with lake levels just slightly under 60% capacity or Stage 1 of the drought plan. The City did not wait too long to begin the search for additional supplies and will continue to search for additional water sources, such as the building of Lake Ringgold.
Neither the Corps of Engineers nor a highway contractor offered to dredge Lake Wichita for free. The City does not use the lake as a water source.
Lake Wichita is also only 1/60th the size of Lake Arrowhead. If used as a water source under peak demand conditions, the lake would be empty in 36 days. Additionally, the water in Lake Wichita comes from Lake Kemp, so the water would be too salty to use unless it was run through the RO (Reverse Osmosis) Plant.
Fines are as follows:
The fines are designed to discourage discretionary water use, such as watering lawns, so citizens have enough water for health and daily living. The city only receives a portion of a fine. The State of Texas mandates that $64 of every fine be paid to the State.
The Water Resources Commission is a group of citizen volunteers who review the City’s Conservation and Drought Plans and make appropriate recommendations to the City Council for changes.
The decrease in lake levels results from a natural drought cycle in the region of Texas. As temperatures stay warmer throughout the year, and there is a lack of precipitation during the same time, the lakes receive less runoff while the existing water evaporates into the atmosphere. Reducing how much we take out of the lake will help extend its levels and get us to a cooler/wetter cycle time.
A drought plan is a document mandated by the State of Texas for each Public Water Supply to have on file. It directs the actions that a Public Water Supply takes to try and conserve as much water as possible in the event of a natural drought or man-made emergency. The City's drought plan has been enacted during the last two droughts and has proven effective. These plans are updated every five years and submitted to the State of Texas for approval. The City updated the latest plan in 2018. This plan included several innovations to make it more effective (taking into account lessons learned from the drought of 2011-2015.