The city of Waxahachie has entered stage one of its drought contingency plan – meaning residents and businesses need to voluntarily conserve water.

“While Lake Waxahachie is low, it is still at a decent level, especially compared to some of the other lakes across the state,” city manager Paul Stevens said. “We are urging all residents and businesses to conserve water and decrease non-essential water use so that the situation doesn’t worsen.”

The level of Lake Waxahachie has reached 527 feet elevation, which means stage one restrictions must be implemented, according to the city’s drought contingency plan. If the lake level falls three more feet, to 524 feet, the city will implement stage two restrictions. Under stage two, mandatory water restrictions are put into place, with non-essential water use restricted to two days a week.

For all restrictions to be lifted, the lake elevation must rise to a minimum of 530 feet and remain there for a minimum of three days. Waxahachie receives its water from Lake Waxahachie, Lake Bardwell, Richland Chambers Reservoir and Cedar Creek Reservoir.

“Based on our projections right now, we are two and half months away from hitting stage two of the drought contingency plan, which would put us 7.5 feet low in Lake Waxahachie. Some time in October is when we will reach stage two if we don’t get any relief from the rain,” director of utilities David Bailey said. “Right now, the forecast is looking bleak for the immediate future, so if residents can cut back on non-essential watering. Just think about this being in the long term because we may be in this for several months. We are trying to make sure we can prolong our water supply and have it for as long as we can.”

Bailey recalled the late 1990s, when the lake was at 8-8.5 feet below and the city had to restrict public access with a temporary chain link fence under an emergency ordinance enacted to prevent any boating, swimming or other entry into the lake.

Conserve water on the outside of a home by using a broom to clear walkways, sidewalks and driveways. When landscaping, plant plants that are native to the area and drought-tolerant. Use mulch while planting because it helps to retain moisture in the soil better. Also, eliminate unnecessary water uses such as washing vehicles and watering the lawn every day.

Water conservation is not limited to the outside as steps can be taken on the inside of a home.

One of the first steps is to repair any dripping faucets by replacing their washers. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, one drop per second wastes about 2,700 gallons of water per year.

Another step is to replace older fixtures with low-flow fixtures – including showerheads, kitchen and bathroom faucets and toilets – designed to use less water. Homeowners also can insulate water pipes, a measure that helps prevent heat loss and broken pipes. When purchasing appliances, look at ones that are more efficient.

Other steps to conserve water include not letting faucets continually run, operating dishwashers only when they are fully loaded and storing drinking water in the refrigerator to keep it cold.

The Associated Press recently reported the city of Kemp had its water shut off for two days while repairs were made to the water system. Shifting soil had caused the pipes to break, with about two million gallons of water leaking out. The town of Robert Lee also is facing a water shortage as it has pumped the remaining water from its supply, Lake E.V. Spencer, an exclusive reservoir for storage.

Bailey believes Waxahachie has a robust water supply that will carry community into the future – but everyone needs to do his or her part to be water conscious, he said.

For questions regarding water conservation or the city’s drought contingency plan, contact the city’s community relations manager, Amy Hollywood, at 972-937-7330, ext. 284.

For more information, about water conservation, go to www.texaswatermatters.org/conservation.htm.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1451.