Why is Lake Meredith so low with all the rain that has fallen in the surrounding areas?
Lake Meredith’s watershed extends to the west of the Lake and north of I-40. Unfortunately the rainfall that occurred over much of the state did not occur within the watershed. This has been the pattern for the last 10 years. Even in years where we may have had near normal rainfall totals, those rains have not been of the intensity and duration needed to generate significant run-off.
Where does Lake Meredith get its water?
The Canadian River supplies most of the water for Lake Meredith. There are other tributaries that provide inflow into the Lake, but they make up a smaller percentage. Even though there is normally a small base flow in the Canadian River, it is the large storm events that make a difference in lake levels.
Will snow in the mountains help Lake Meredith?
Conchas Lake and Ute Lake are both on the Canadian River upstream from Lake Meredith. Any run-off that results from snow melt will go to these lakes first, therefore reducing the likelihood that this water would reach Lake Meredith. Local snow fall is beneficial, but it generally doesn’t have a major impact on the Lake since much of the precipitation tends to soak into the ground rather than run-off.
Why doesn’t Ute Lake in New Mexico release water to Texas?
The States of New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are all parties to the Canadian River Compact created by agreement of the three states and the federal government in 1950. The Compact is administered by representatives appointed by the Governors of each state and a chairperson appointed by the President. It has authority over each state pertaining to issues related to the Canadian River. According to the Compact, New Mexico can hold 200,000 acre-feet in Ute Lake before it would have to release water to Texas. Currently, that level is about 3 feet below their spillway. Any water stored above that level must be released to the Canadian River and will eventually make its way to Lake Meredith. Any amount below that or any water in Conchas Lake is not required to be released. Texas also can only hold 500,000 acre-feet in Lake Meredith before we would have to release water for Oklahoma. The 500,000 acre-feet level in Lake Meredith would represent a depth of around 102 feet.
Has anything changed over the years that could reduce the level in Lake Meredith?
It is possible that changes in land use, stock ponds, etc., have had a minor impact on the amount of runoff that drains to Lake Meredith, but one of the more notable changes has been the spread of salt cedar. Because salt cedar spreads so quickly and uses a tremendous amount of water, we believe it has significant impact on the amount of water coming into Lake Meredith. The control of salt cedar is one thing we can do something about. Just under $3.1 million has been spent since the project started in 2004. Another $185,000 is scheduled to be used for salt cedar control in 2010. These funds have been provided by CRMWA, the State of Texas, and the federal government. The National Park Service is also deeply involved in salt cedar control in the lake area. Although salt cedar control will help to avoid loss of water once it is in the river or lake, CRMWA believes the largest factor affecting inflow into the Lake is lack of intense rains over the optimum portions of the watershed.
Can anything be done to help the level in Lake Meredith come up?
Because Lake Meredith is totally dependent on rainfall, very little can be done to improve the level in the Lake. As mentioned above, reducing the amount of salt cedar will help runoff make it to the Lake, but that can only happen with the right kind of rains.
How low will the Lake be pumped?
Lake Meredith was developed for the 11 Member Cities as a water supply source. Because it remains an important supply for the cities, pumping will continue as long as possible. It is important to note that since its inception, LakeMeredith has provided almost 850 billion gallons of water. That is 850 billion gallons that would likely have come from groundwater resources, which for the most part are not renewable.
It is possible that the current drought could extend long enough so that the Lake is not useful as a water supply; however, by looking at inflow records for the last 70 years, that is not the most likely scenario. CRMWA believes that in the worst case (even less inflow that we have had in the past several years), the Lake could be pumped down to a level of 25 to 30 feet depth. At those levels, Lake Meredith would have between 1,500 and 1,900 surface acres and would extend to about the Fritch Fortress area. Pumping down to that level is not expected but we did not expect it to get to the current level either. If Meredith was not pumped during times like this, the salinity would increase dramatically. Evaporation accounts for about the same amount of water that is being pumped and evaporation only takes pure water and leaves the salts and other minerals in the Lake. Salts and other minerals concentrations in Lake Meredith have doubled during the current drought.
Should less water be pumped to the Cities to improve fishing and other recreational activities?
The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority (CRMWA) and Lake Meredith was created as a result of the efforts of eleven cities in the Panhandle and South Plains to create a water supply. These member cities fund all of CRMWA’s operations and projects in order to have a long-term water supply. It is important to use as much of this renewable supply (Lake Meredith) as possible and at the same time preserve those other resources that are not renewable (groundwater). Lake Meredith was built as a water storage facility. It was sized so that it could continue to supply water even during periods of drought. Recreational benefits, while appreciated, were not the reason for the construction of the dam.
Can the water from the Canadian River reach Lake Meredith?
Most of the water that flows past the USGS gauging station north of Amarillo (at Hwy 287 and the Canadian River) does in fact reach Lake Meredith. Comparisons between the gauging station records and Lake inflow data are performed every month. While there have always been differences because of the inherent inaccuracies of such measurements, there is a strong correlation between the two values and that has not changed in recent years. There has been media attention given to a small “beaver dam” in a portion of the river channel; however, this portion of the channel can only handle very small flows. Large flow events (up to 200 times larger) are the types of flows that have historically benefited the lake the most. This “beaver dam” was investigated and removed only to improve the path for smaller base flows that account for a smaller portion of Lake Inflows.
Is there a “delta” on the upstream portion of the Lake?
As water flows into Lake Meredith, it slows down and sediments drop out and have concentrated on the upper end of the Lake. The accumulation of sediment on the upper end of the Lake could be a problem in that it could make the movement of water from the river to the Lake less efficient, creating more losses. Comparisons with gauging data does not reveal this to be a problem however, as most of the water from the river eventually finds its way to the Lake.
How much water does Lake Meredith supply to the cities?
Lake Meredith has provided between 20 and 25 billion gallons of water historically, which represents almost 70% of the total water needs of the cities. That amount has been cut in half the last several years, due to the drought. CRMWA has supplemented their supply with groundwater since 2001.
Why is controlling salt cedar so important?
Salt Cedar is a non-native species that spreads rapidly and uses a tremendous amount of water. CRMWA and others believe that it significantly reduces the amount of water flowing into Lake Meredith. Controlling salt cedar is one thing we can do something about that will make a difference.
Is there any danger with spraying salt cedar on the river or around the Lake?
The chemicals used to control salt cedar, Habitat & Arsenal, have been extensively tested by both federal and state authorities and has been declared safe for use around the lake and near the river.
Does CRMWA supply groundwater in addition to water from Lake Meredith?
Yes, since late 2001, CRMWA has been blending Lake Meredith water with groundwater from the John C. Williams wellfield. This wellfield was developed to improve water quality and also provide an additional source of water. Since its development, CRMWA has acquired additional water rights becoming the largest owner of groundwater in the State of Texas. If the Lake continues to decline, this water and its development will become increasingly important.
How long will this groundwater last?
There are several factors that will affect how long this water will last; most notably how much pumping occurs in the region by CRMWA and others. With very little pumping by others, this water should last 100+ years. If the Lake recovers and regains its role as CRMWA’s main source of water, CRMWA’s groundwater could last much longer than 100 years.
Does CRMWA have a conservation program?
CRMWA has a water conservation plan that describes water loss goals throughout the distribution system, use of renewable vs. non-renewable resources, etc. This is solely intended for CRMWA’s operations. CRMWA does not have the authority to regulate conservation for the Member Cities, but rather CRMWA sets yearly allocations for the Cities based on the availability of water from Lake Meredith and the John C. Williams Wellfield. Each City may choose to implement conservation measures, depending on their total supply of water and expected demands.
Should CRMWA force its Member Cities to conserve water?
The member cities requested that CRMWA be created to supply municipal and industrial water from Lake Meredith and more recently the John C Williams wellfield. Each city has their own water supply in addition to that which CRMWA provides and each city’s situation is different. CRMWA and the member cities believe water conservation is important, but each city chooses what measures its leaders feel are necessary to address their needs, considering the resources they have available. . CRMWA’s Board of Directors determines how much water can be made available to the cities on an annual basis and then each city evaluates their demands, CRMWA’s allocations, and their own supplies to determine what their water situation is. Some cities are fortunate to have plentiful groundwater reserves while other cities are more dependent on CRMWA’s supply.