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Water improvement district postpones irrigation

Area farmers utilizing the irrigation water from Lake Kemp for their crops will have to rely on rainfall alone this summer, as the Wichita County Water Improvement District No. 2 board on Tuesday moved to postpone the 2012 irrigation season to conserve dwindling resources.

“The water shortage and poor water quality continue to be a dilemma at Lake Kemp,” said the district’s press release following Tuesday’s meeting. General Manager Kyle Miller noted the water, which runs through mainly canals from April through October, will be cut off until enough rainfall raises the levels at Lake Kemp. “It’s good to see it raining in the area,” he said Wednesday. “We need it to rain a bunch over Lake Kemp and the watershed.”

Miller said the lake level at Kemp is at 1126, which is barely above the level that would trigger a Stage 3 restriction. That restriction level could possibly impact industrial usage.

According to the release, the Wichita County USDA-NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) has recently completed an analysis of water quality for Lake Kemp and Lake Diversion. Studies on soils within the WCWID No. 2 were also conducted. The studies showed the water and soil quality have extremely high electrical conductivity ratings, and were high in chlorides and total dissolved solids. The water supply at Lake Kemp is at 36 percent full.

The WCWD No. 2 initiated Stage 2 restrictions late last summer as Lake Kemp’s level lowered, but that impacted just over a month of irrigating.

The power plant at Oklaunion is contracted to purchase 20,000 acre feet of water from WCWID No. 2 each year but, according to Miller, they have generally used less than 10,000 acre feet. A Stage 3 restriction could include holding the plant – the largest customer in the district – to the 10,000 acre feet cap.
According to the news release, the WCWID board will continue to include the 2012 irrigation season, drought contingency planning and weather/drought related conditions as an agenda item in future meetings.

The City of Wichita Falls owns Lake Kemp, and shares water rights with the district. During last year’s drought, Wichita Falls blended water from Kemp through its reserse osmosis filtration system along with water from Arrowhead and Kickapoo, to avoid enacting severe drought restriction measures.

Wichita Falls has enacted Stage 2 drought warning, with rationing procedures to begin Monday.