HOUSTON – The City of Houston on Tuesday began releasing water from Lake Conroe into Lake Houston because of the drought.
The initial release of 50 million gallons a day began at noon. That amount may triple -- 150 gallons daily -- by Thursday, said Jace Houston, a spokesman for the San Jacinto River Authority.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints," he said. "Obviously, we’re all concerned. Even the city of Houston would rather leave all of this water in storage. That’s what these reservoirs are for. But this is a record drought.”
Officials made the move in a bid to stabilize Lake Houston’s level for operational needs at the city’s northeast water purification plant.
It was the first time the city has drawn water from Lake Conroe since 1988.
The overall decline in Lake Conroe was expected to be anywhere from 5 to 6 inches per week.
Lakefront property owners were warned to watch water levels to determine if they need to move their boats.
"It is what it is," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said last Wednesday. "There may be recreational impacts. We have to provide the necessary water to our population."
Parker noted that Lake Conroe was built with Houston taxpayers’ money in the 1960s.
Still, that point has done little to satisfy some property owners around Lake Conroe. Many have not been able to move their boats since May and the visible water level drop may hurt their property values.
“When you live on the water and you pay the taxes that you pay to live on the water, then you want access to the water,” said Donna Willingham, who was able to remove her boat just in time.
Many of her neighbors have had their boats stuck on what is now an unwanted beach.
Meanwhile, Houstonians were dealing with mandatory water restrictions implemented by the mayor on Monday.
Parker initiated the city’s "Stage Two" water conservation plan Monday afternoon. Under the plan, city residents are asked to limit their outdoor watering to just two days a week, and to never water during the day.
Residents with odd-numbered addresses are allowed to water between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Those with even-numbered addresses can water their lawns between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. on Sundays and Thursdays.
Residents are also required to repair all leaks within 72 hours of discovery.
Those who fail to follow the restrictions could face some serious fines.
The first time a resident is caught breaking the rules, he or she will be warned. After that, the fines begin at $150, increasing as high as $2,000 for each subsequent violation.
The city of Houston also initiated internal water-conservation measures, including the suspension of any scheduled window or power-washings, an audit of all irrigation systems for leaks, and the suspension of washing city vehicles or equipment except for health, safety or critical maintenance reasons.
After "Stage Two," there are two, more serious levels of water rationing.