Electra's mayor is looking to "beg, borrow or steal" funds to remedy the
city's water system.
The city's most recent problem occurred Christmas weekend when unprotected equipment and heavy
holiday demand dwindled Electra's water supply to a trickle Saturday, a problem the city has yet to overcome.
While Electra continues to refill its water levels, Mayor Glen Branch is considering joining
with the Wichita Falls' water system. Branch said the potential project would cost between $6.5 million and $7 million, which
he wants to obtain through grants to prevent raising taxes or water rates.
If he is able to obtain the grant funds, Branch said, the city would tie in with Wichita Falls
by the end of 2005. He said a trip to Washington, D.C., has already been planned for him to attempt to gain project funding.
Scott Taylor, Wichita Falls director of public works, said his department is working to assist
Electra in the grant process. In addition, the two cities have already decided on the water pipelines position. Wichita Falls
currently supplies water to Iowa Park, Scotland, Holliday and other outlying regions, Taylor said.
Branch said he would request 1.5 million gallons of water a day from the Wichita Falls' system.
It will flow through 14-inch pipe to the small township.
Electra businessman Ron Wilson said the tie-in would be "wonderful thing" but was told the best
bet for funding was a United States Department of Agriculture grant. He said Electra had a "pie in the sky" chance of getting
For the short term, Branch wants to get the Electra's water system back on line and possibly
dig some more water wells to accommodate his city's water consumption.
Electra has received help from Wichita County, Sheppard Air Force Base and Wal-Mart during their
shortage, the mayor said.
The county pitched in by supplying 10,000 gallons of non-potable (non-drinkable) water for use
in the event of a fire, Lee Bourgoin, the Wichita County emergency management coordinator, said. Area fire departments - Kamay,
Wichita West and Iowa Park - have also been put on alert to assist.
"We are well prepared," Bourgoin said.
Sheppard sent the city two 400-gallon trucks containing potable drinkable water, and Wal-Mart
sent two pallets of drinking water.
"We will take everything we can use right now," Larry Lundstrom, Electra's director of public
He said Electra was still in a "grave situation" regarding its water supply. The demand for water
tripled over the holidays. The increased usage has continued and prevented Electra from refilling its tanks adequately.
The specific equipment problem involved newly installed probes - a mechanism that measures the
tanks' water levels - located at the site of Electra's towers. The probes were wrapped with a heating element that was not
able to prevent freezing.
"It was so cold for so long," Lundstrom said.
Thursday's temperature didn't get above 23 degrees followed by an equally freezing Friday, with
a high of 28 degrees and a low of 11 degrees. Saturday began in the upper teens and eventually rose to a high of 52 degrees,
according to the National Weather Service Web site.
Lundstrom said the frozen probes caused the tanks' water levels to appear full and the city's
pumps to turn off. The equipment problem, accompanied with the higher than usual water usage, left Electra with almost nothing.
"It was like camping out in your own house," Wilson said.
He recounted a holiday season filled with no showers and the forced flushing of toilets.
"We need people to conserve for us to be able to catch up," Lundstrom said.
Despite Electra's call for conservation, Wilson said this most recent water problem - like those
preceding it - was preventable.
"This is not a first time thing. We've had four outages this year, all precipitated by a lack
of action and planning," he said. "It all boils down to they - city officials - had a lot of opportunity to prepare, a matter
Electra's Mayor Glenn Branch said the water supply was "a little better" on Tuesday.
"We only had trickles on Christmas," he said.
The probes have since been outfitted with a protective box containing a heating lamp, Lundstrom
Branch expects the water towers to be refilled and providing a continuous water supply by Friday.
The return of flowing water doesn't mean that Electra is out of the woods, though, the city will still be under a boil alert
for a week.
Water samples came back clear of contaminants from a Wichita Falls lab Tuesday, Lundstrom said,
but the boil alert is still in effect because of the fear of a pressure drop. If the city's water pressure drops below 25
pounds of pressure, Electra must issue a boil alert.
Wilson said the city officials' lack of communication with the public is what caused Electra's
water problems to "evolve into a crisis" in the first place. He said he assumes they are being truthful about this current
Despite their differences of opinion, Wilson and Branch do agree on one aspect involving the
city's water issue and its future. They both believe the town will eventually dry up if a constant water supply is not found
Disclosure: Ron Wilson of Electra is the brother of Times Record News Editorial Page Coordinator
Regional Reporter Robert Morgan can be reached at (940) 720-3495, (800) 627-1646, Ext. 495, or
via e-mail at morganr@TimesRecordNews.com.