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07/29/08 - Whitehouse

Whitehouse's Water Woes Explained

It is dangerously hot and dry, and some east Texans are suffering from water woes, after several towns restrict water usage.

The most severe is in Whitehouse, where residents cannot even water outside at any time. This started after negotiations fell through with the city of Tyler.

Whitehouse had been buying water through Tyler, which supplies more than enough for Smith county using Lake Palestine and Lake Tyler.

"Scoop it up, take it out, when something's about to wilt or go away."

Like many Whitehouse residents, Nancy Gibson has become a conservation queen.

"I have a yellow bucket in the sink. When I wash my hands I put the water in that instead of letting it go down the drain, take it outside, put it in a pot or a flower."

Giving any extra drop to her once thriving garden, which she and her husband planted together before he passed away.

"I don't like looking out my back door because it was my husband and mine's sanctuary. That was about the only thing he could do was enjoy the birds and our flowers...it was our love."

And it's quickly dying in the hot sun without water.

But Whitehouse city manager, Ronny Fite, says the ban is only temporary and asks for everyone to be patient.

"It's bad right now, but at the end of September when this new plan or third plan comes online then things will be back to normal."

Fite says Whitehouse is in the process of tapping into their own resources after contract negotiations fell through with Tyler.

"There wasn't enough information in the contract that would protect on future rate increases. It was pretty much an open door and Tyler had the control on that and we weren't comfortable with that," Fite told us today.

According to Fite, Whitehouse is getting 5 new wells, giving them a total of 6.

And they're working on a long-term plan to purify water from Lake Striker, which is near New Summerfield.

"The only thing that Lake Striker's currently being used for is cooling water for TXU's power plant. It has no harmful chemicals or anything like that," said Fite.

But, it's already too late for Gibson's garden.

Now, Fite says residents could begin watering outside as early as next week.

He says the new wells will be tested this week and if all goes well, residents could water at least one day a week.

As for the Lake Striker project, he estimates that will take about 2 to 3 years.

As we mentioned, Whitehouse used to get their water from Tyler, but that contract ended in 2005.

Tyler water authorities say in the end, Whitehouse chose not to renew the deal.

"We have not slammed the door on the city of Whitehouse and while Whitehouse at this point in time has decided it's in their best interest not to pursue a contract through the city of Tyler, we stand ready to visit with them about that," Greg Morgan, who is the Tyler Utilities and Public Works director, told us today.

Tyler, on the other hand, is in very good shape.

Morgan says using Lake Palestine and Lake Tyler, the city and Smith County have enough water to last residents through 2084.

Courtney Lane, reporting. clane@kltv.com

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