As of June 29 the city has modified its Stage 3 watering restrictions and residents will have to adjust to using sprinkler systems only once every two weeks instead of once a week.
Tom Kula, North Texas Municipal Water District executive director, told Frisco and the other 12 NTMWD member cities that the district will need more than a 15-20 percent water use reduction for the entire summer to extend available water supplies until drought conditions are expected to ease.
"The reservoirs that provide the water supply for NTMWD's customers are extremely low due to the extended drought," Kula said. "Even with the supply from Lake Texoma coming back online, the potential for facing the decision to enter Stage 4 later this summer is possible unless greater water reduction measures are implemented through the summer."
Stage 4 would eliminate outdoor watering alltogether, including new landscapes, and prevent residents from building new pools or draining and refilling existing pools.
The goal for the water district's member cities is to reduce water usage by 10 percent from the 2012–13 year.
With Frisco already reducing its water usage by 20 percent since Stage 3 restrictions were put in place in June 2013, Frisco City Council members initially balked at the NTMWD's request to go to biweekly watering. After several discussions, the council finally agreed to the modified restrictions for the good of the district as a whole, despite criticism from residents.
City Manager George Purefoy said he asked the council to make the change.
"The primary reason was Frisco represents about 10 percent of the use of the North Texas Municipal Water District's daily water supply," he said. "That means that 90 percent is used by the other cities. It was becoming fairly obvious that if Frisco didn't go to [biweekly watering] then a lot of the other cities were going to break ranks and probably go to once-a-week watering."
Purefoy said he doesn't think the conservation with once-a-week watering would have been as efficient in the other cities as it has been in Frisco.
"They don't have the programs in place that we've been fortunate to do because we're pretty new and have technologies at our convenience that the other cities don't," Purefoy said.
Working with the NTMWD
Councilman Will Sowell said Frisco needed to make the move to biweekly watering to provide city staff with leverage to "work aggressively" with the NTMWD to develop a strategy that will force member cities to adopt water-saving measures Frisco already has in place.
"No one will go to Stage 4 alone," Sowell said. "We, as a region, would move to Stage 4, and that would be a significant blow to economic development not just in Frisco but in the entire region."
Sowell said water conservation is a tough issue that requires regional cooperation.
"I'd like to see ... the NTMWD produce a series of best practices and tactics for all the member cities to follow during enhanced Stage 3 restrictions," he said.
He said he would also like the NTMWD to provide a firm date for which its member cities can plan for the Lower Bois d'Arc Creek Reservoir to be functioning and strategies to take the district to that point. The reservoir, which will supplement the NTMWD supply, is situated in Fannin County, northeast of Collin County, and is in the permitting stages. City officials said it could be online as early as 2020.
Water for spray parks
Rick Wieland, Parks and Recreation Department Director, said Frisco Commons Park, Harold Bacchus Park and the Warren Sports Complex all have wells in place, which allows them to be watered without using the city's potable water supply.
The well water will allow the city to operate one of its three spray parks—the one at Frisco Commons Park—this summer.
The Frisco Commons well system is undergoing repairs and updates and as a result the spray park should open sometime in the near future, Wieland said. The other two city spray parks, at J.R. Newman Park and Shepherd's Glen Park, will not open because they utilize potable water.
The city of Frisco began implementing water-saving and reuse measures in 2002.
Public Works Director Gary Hartwell insists limiting Frisco's growth is not the answer to the water shortage problem. He said preventing water waste—largely in the form of the overuse of sprinkler systems—is the solution.
"We have plenty of water for our current residents; we have plenty of water for our future residents," Hartwell said. "What we don't have is enough water to waste. As far as this summer, the only number that matters now is the level of the lake, and we are all in that together."
Hartwell said the city continues to recommend that citizens turn their sprinkler systems off. Based on data from the city's weather station, the Public Works Department recommends how much residents need to water. That recommendation is posted on the city website and sent by email every Monday morning for those who have signed up for the department's online newsletter.
Through the first six months of 2014, the city recommended running sprinkler systems only twice. In 2013, the city recommended watering once a week for 17 weeks out of the year.