Continued lack of significant rainfall heading into the winter months has done no favors for Lake Olney,  which stood at 1,124 feet elevation heading into Thanksgiving. With concern growing about the availability of local water, and the continued decline of the level of Wichita Falls' Lake Kickapoo, Olney's primary water source for many months, City Administrator Danny Parker said now is not the time to stop conserving water.

“(Lake Cooper) is at about 24 percent,” he said on Thursday, Nov. 21. “We dug out around the intake and deepened that area. If the water will continue to come into that area, we'll be ok for a while.”

If a silt bank or other obstruction blocks water from flowing to the intake structure, he said a local contractor has already agreed to go in and knock it down. However, there is no real estimate, at this time, regarding how long the water will still be able to be collected by the structure.

The middle of the final gate on the intake structure is at 1,117.75 feet, just 6.25 feet from the lake's current elevation.

“We don't know how much water there is in Lake Olney, but we still have that to fall back on and try to treat or pump over,” Parker said. 

The problem with treating water from Lake Olney is that it contains far more silt than Lake Cooper, and will be more difficult and more expensive to treat.

That leads Olney to continue to rely on Lake Kickapoo for its main water source. As of now, Olney cannot be cut back to fewer than 300,000 gallons per day from the emergency pipeline laid between the city's water treatment plant and the lake in the late 1970s. However, Parker said that does not mean the city of Wichita Falls, which went into Stage 4 drought restrictions on Saturday, Nov. 16, with its combined lake levels at less than 30 percent, cannot request that Olney cut its usage. Olney has been in its most restrictive drought phase since the first part of 2013.

“They've asked we abide by their water conservation efforts,” Parker said. “But our Phase 4 of the drought contingency plan is stricter than theirs to begin with. They're asking all the communities that get their water to reduce.”

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