In recent months, there has been rising concern for local residents over the dwindling water levels in Lake Texoma as the region experiences an extended drought. Lake Texoma is one of many reservoirs that provides water to North Texas and the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as well as peak hydroelectric power for the surrounding region.
Earlier this week, the Texas Water Development Board published a graph depicting water levels of all reservoirs that serve the Dallas area, including Lake Texoma. The reservoirs have steadily been declining since 2011, with the reservoirs at an average of 70 percent capacity. Currently, Lake Texoma sits at 67 percent of its conservation pool levels, or 609 feet of its conservation pool capacity, said Sara Goodeyon with the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
“In times of drought, (Lake Texoma’s) storage is required to consistently provide water and electricity to the region and this results in a lower lake level,” Col. Richard Bratt, commander with the USACE, Tulsa Division, said in a press release. “The entities that have water contract agreements have a right to their water, we all acknowledge that fact while emphasizing conversation to limit the long-lasting negative effects on fish, wildlife and recreational activities.”
Seven entities have water agreements with the Corps, which account for 300,000 acre-feet of the lake capacity, said Goodeyon.
Other factors that have led to dwindling water levels include a multi-year drought, which has caused record low inflows into the lake, the lowest average rainfall since 2009, and widespread evaporation. Due to the low levels, the lake has been placed under Drought Level 2 district-wide contingency plans since November.
The low depth may have an impact on recreational use, said Goodeyon. Boaters should be cautious and on the look out for water hazards and sand bars, while larger vessels may have difficulty in marina navigation. Goodeyon advises that boats equipped with depth finders use the devices to monitor the depth of the water while on the lake.
Current contingency plans for lake conservation include limits on power production on the lake, limiting it to peak periods. Texoma hydroelectric plants are limited to full production between four and eight hours a day with more generation during emergencies, said Goodeyon. Since the measures have been put into place, 2013 was the lowest production year since hydroelectric power generation started on Lake Texoma in 1945. While this helps with lake water levels, it requires replacement power from more expensive sources, said Goodeyon.
Current estimates predict that drought conditions will continue at least through Feb. 28, said Goodeyon. If lake levels drop below a range of 607 and 599 feet, Lake Texoma will reach Drought Level 3, which will require additional restrictions on water use including further limits on power generation, said Goodeyon.