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Conversation on conservation

May was the third consecutive month with below-normal temperatures for the region, and weather forecasters are calling for a chance of scattered showers this week, so why should you be concerned about the North Texas water supply?

There are many good reasons, but one of the best is that while spring saw its share of showers and storms, it was still drier than normal.

Overall, the National Weather Service in Fort Worth found that Denton was below average in precipitation, with 2.3 inches less than normal rainfall recorded at Denton Enterprise Airport between January and May. The region is down 3.09 inches at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

We realize that 2 to 3 inches of rainfall may not sound like much — we’ve all seen downpours that dumped that much water in a short time — but if you’ve been paying attention to weather forecasts lately, you’ve probably heard reports that several North Texas lakes are well below normal levels.

Since many area cities draw their water from those lakes, restrictions on water use are already in place for some area municipalities.

The North Texas Municipal Water District, which provides water to 1.6 million customers in Collin, Rockwall and Kaufman counties, has imposed Stage 3 water restrictions, which limits sprinkler use for homes and businesses to once a week, The Dallas Morning News reported recently. The town of Little Elm has also gone to Stage 3 of its water conservation plan, according to a news release.

In addition to low lake levels, the North Texas water supply has been affected by the infestation of zebra mussels in Lake Texoma. We’ve told you about the threat of zebra mussels before, and the situation at Lake Texoma is a good example of what can happen if the problem gets out of hand. The latest reports from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department showed the presence of mussel DNA in Lewisville, Bridgeport and Bob Sandlin lakes, along with Texoma and Ray Roberts lakes, where adult populations have been found.

OK, so there’s a critical shortage of water in North Texas, but since you don’t live in a city served by the North Texas Municipal Water District, you don’t have to worry about it. Right?

That’s exactly the kind of attitude that forces officials to impose water restrictions. The area’s rapid growth has brought an increasing demand for water, and Mother Nature hasn’t been helping out much in recent years, so we’ve had ongoing drought conditions in many areas.

Throw in a lot of people who are addicted to over-watering their lawns, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Why not be proactive and conserve water now, before the restrictions get any tougher? Most of us waste far more water than we realize, and a few simple conservation steps could make a big difference.

And speaking of restrictions — before turning on your sprinklers, we suggest that you check with officials in your city to make sure you know exactly what water-use guidelines are in effect. The city of Denton, for example, prohibits watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from June 1 through Sept. 30, except for hand-watering and watering foundations with a soaker hose.

Restrictions may vary from city to city, but when it comes to water conservation, all North Texans are in the same boat, and it may not stay afloat for much longer.

The sooner we make conservation a habit, the better off we’ll be.