Lake Waco’s Wetlands System is completely dry, not having pumped water in since March

The Lake Waco Wetlands System receives water through a two-pump system, sourcing water from the Bosque River
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - As Lake Waco still loses millions of gallons of water every day, one water system connected to the lake has lost all its water.

When Lake Waco was raised by seven feet, in 2001, many wildlife that called the area home were displaced.

Shortly after, the Lake Waco Wetlands System was constructed to give those animals a home and give Waco residents a new educational tool.

As of October, the Waco area has downgraded its level of drought from exceptional to severe.

Despite the downgrade in severity, Waco parks and water systems are still struggling.

The Lake Waco Wetlands System is no exception with most of its water nowhere to be found.

“Since I’ve been out here for almost 19 years now, this is the longest stretch we’ve gone without any water being pumped into this particular wetland,” said Norah Schell, coordinator for the Lake Waco Wetlands System.

Using two pumps to bring in water from the bosque river, pumping had to stop in March due to low river levels.

If you’re standing in the middle of the Lake Waco Wetland System during a normal rain season, water would normally be up to your knee.

The lack of water has caused some issues for local wildlife as well as migrating waterfowl who travel south in the winter.

“These are ecologically young systems. We’ve had the wetlands 20, 22 years or so. They’re not hundreds and thousands of years old in terms of the maturation so you see tons of changes,” said Robert Doyle, director of the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems.

Since the wetlands currently have little to no water, vegetation that normally wouldn’t grow now has room to thrive.

When the wetlands receive ample amount of water, those species will die out and a water-based ecosystems will return.

Schell has seen the wetlands system go through both a drought, back in 2011, and major floods, saying the ecosystem and its inhabitants always bounces back.

“Usually through a drought I’ve experienced before, once we get the pumps started and it continuously runs, it takes about three weeks for the water to maintain,” said Schell.

If drought conditions continue, which after talking with KWTX meteorologist Brady Taylor could be the case, a prescribed burn could take place in November or December.

Local fire departments would assist with the prescribed burn to ensure a controlled environment.