Kilgore City Council adopted a water conservation and drought contingency plan at Tuesday’s meeting, providing the city with a plan to deal with water shortages should they arise in the future.

Ordinance No. 1750 is a required update to the city’s standing water conservation and drought contingency plan with one major change, said City Manager Josh Selleck.

“The brief summary is that, aside from updating triggers to TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) recommendations, the overall plan is almost identical to what has been in place before. The requirement is that we update it every five years and it was last updated in 2014. The most substantive change here from a practical standpoint is that the ordinance now adopts the plan by reference rather than by incorporating it.”

Adopting the plan in this way will make it easier for the city and the public to access the plan.

“So, the rationale here is it’s very expensive and very difficult and it’s very difficult to find it if it’s codified within our code of ordinances. Whereas, what Clay (Evers, Director of Public Works) is presenting in this item is an ordinance adopting it and now it will be posted on our website under “Wastewater” where people would expect to find it,” Selleck said, adding the ordinance will be paginated, numbered and won’t be “buried deep in the code somewhere.”

“The formatting is a bit different but, in general, it’s the same thing as what we’ve seen previously,” he said.

Council member Mike Sechrist asked Selleck how the city would notify residents about their obligations regarding water conservation per the updated policy.

“Up to this point, we’ve not gone beyond Stage 1, which is the stage that enacts every late spring and ends Sept. 1,” Selleck said.

“For that stage, it’s completely voluntary. The efforts associated with that, that we have none associated with as of today, would look like just general water conservation, the kind of thing that you would see in an elementary school: shut off the water when you brush your teeth, use a low-flow head on your shower, those types of things.”

Should the city need to implement stricter water conservation protocols, they could proceed to the next phase of the plan.

“It would come along with a fairly drastic public information plan. In other cities where I’ve had to enter Phase 2, it sometimes comes along with temporary staff. Once you reach into those latter phases, your real risk is running out of water on a daily basis and so enforcement is a critical piece and notification.”

Should such a situation occur, Selleck said the city’s Code Red system, Facebook posts and newspaper articles would inform the public about the appropriate water conservation measures.

In the most extreme drought circumstances, water use would be restricted to “personal use only”, such as for bathing and cooking.

“In those instances, as you can imagine, we would have a great deal of staff ramped up to ensure that we all have enough water to survive.”

He added, as drought conditions worsen, the contingency plan calls for tighter water restrictions.

Council member Harvey McClendon asked Selleck about water production and usage rates. 

“Peak usage, we’ve hit 95 percent once before,” Selleck said.

“This last winter and fall, our water treatment plant was fully out of service so our actual production, at that point we were in the 2 to 3 million gallons-per-day range, which worked. At that point, we probably never really pushed beyond 65, 66 percent. But had we gotten into summer without having the water treatment plant back on, we likely would have, in that instance, had to implement 2 or 3-Stage water curtailment.”

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