Zebra Mussels Force DFW Water Conservation

By Frank Heinz
|  Friday, Mar 25, 2011  |  Updated 1:45 PM CDT
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Mussels Force Water Conservation

AP

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The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) initiated conservation plans Friday due to an infestation of invasive zebra mussels at Lake Texoma.

According to a news release, the NTMWD "initiated Stage 1 of the NTMWD Water Conservation and Drought Contingency and Water Emergency Response Plan."  That's quite a title, but all it means for North Texans is that we should reduce water consumption by 2 percent until the plan is lifted.

Two percent isn't much, just try not to leave your shower, faucet or hoses running unattended and you're probably close to doing your part.

The plan was put in place due to a plethora of zebra mussels found in Lake Texoma that are attaching themselves to pipes and other equipment used to pump water.  The mussels bring increased operating and maintenance costs, so the until the mussels are removed the plant is offline and not sending water to North Texas cities -- hence the conservation plan.

The zebra mussels are new to Texas and were only first discovered in North America in 1988 in the Great Lakes.  The NTMWD said they are typically transferred from one river basin to another by boaters. The mussles are considered to be the most problematic polluting organism in North America because they are very hard to eliminate and not only clog water pipelines but can also cause declines in fish and bird populations.

Here is more from the NTMWD:

“Although zebra mussels are not harmful to humans and do not contaminate the water supply, they do attach to water facilities and pipes that pump water causing increased operating and maintenance costs,” said Jim Parks, NTMWD Executive Director.  “Since Lake Texoma represents a quarter of our water supply, we are working with state and federal agencies to minimize zebra mussels from being transferred from Lake Texoma into the Trinity River basin and ultimately southward to the Gulf of Mexico.”

In August 2009, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department discovered zebra mussels in Sister Grove Creek, a tributary of the East Fork of the Trinity River and used by the NTMWD to transfer water from Lake Texoma.  As a result, NTMWD voluntarily ceased pumping raw water supplies from Lake Texoma and has not resumed pumping.  The infestation of zebra mussels in Lake Texoma has resulted in a loss of 22.5 percent of the NTMWD’s total raw water supply.  NTMWD has and will continue to collaborate with federal and state regulatory agencies to develop a strategy to minimize the transport of zebra mussels into the Trinity River basin.  At this point, NTMWD does not have a firm date for the resumption of pumping from Lake Texoma, however, NTMWD will continue to collaborate with the federal and state agencies to hopefully resume pumping in late 2012.

“This is a complex environmental and conservation issue,” said Parks.  “It is the first time zebra mussels have been found in Texas and NTMWD is the only water supplier transferring water from Lake Texoma to the Trinity River basin.  That’s why water conservation efforts are so important.  We are working on a solution so this does not become a bigger issue for other water sources in the state.”

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