Lots of sun and very little rainfall. A bad combination for White River Lake. The water level at White River Lake is now 25 feet below full, the lowest it has ever been. Without any rain, the outlook is bleak. The lake is located about 25 miles southeast of Crosbyton, and lingering drought is sucking the life out of it, but drought isn't dousing the spirits of those who live and work there.
A.O. Smith's bright and shiny outlook calls for dark and gloomy days ahead. He would like nothing more than to see the skies open up and dump rain for days on the South Plains. "I'm not planning on closing down. I'm waiting for the big rain that will fill the lake," says Smith who owns the White River Lake Marina. He bought it three years ago when the lake was 12 feet below full. It is now 25 feet below full and still plunging. The lowest it has been since it opened in 1965. "Every day we're setting new records with a lower lake level. This is new to everyone," says Smith.
The lake is 100% dependent on rainfall. Not good considering the widespread moderate to severe drought that is plaguing much of the country right now including West Texas. The lake's primary purpose is to provide a water supply for the towns of Crosbyton, Ralls, Post, and Spur. A purpose that has being threatened with every passing dry West Texas day. The lake loses 40% of its water to use, 60% to evaporation. "Right now, we have between a year and a year and a half worth of water in the lake. That's if it doesn't rain at all and we have no restrictions," says White River Water District General Manager Tommy O'Brien.
A few years ago those four towns dependent on this lake created a back-up water supply. They created a well-field between the towns of Ralls and Crosbyton in case the lake doesn't fill up soon. But O'Brien says he's optimistic that the back-up supply won't be needed. "It's always rained. You know. It rained today, so we have to remain optimistic and we will remain optimistic."
When full, the lake is also a great local geta-way spot. A recreational outlet for water sports enthusiasts and anglers. A.O. Smith is confident those days will return soon. In the meantime, he's still growing his business. He just built a new dining room in August which offers a Friday night fish fry and a Sunday morning brunch. A way for A.O. to stay in business until that big rain comes. "The lake will survive. It's going to enlarge and people will come back when it does."
It is not just Texas suffering from drought. According to the National Weather Service, drought conditions are just as severe in 35 other states. Conditions are the worst in Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia.