Zebra mussels, algae, plague beleaguered rural North Texas water system

Amanda McCoy/

As North Texas baked in record-breaking summer heat, customers of a small nonprofit water system near Azle were warned to stop outdoor watering because of critically low levels in the storage tanks brought on by high water use and a failing part that needed to be replaced.

The customers learned they could run out of water which didn’t happen, but the Community Water Supply Corporation and its 1,250 customers are facing a perfect storm of setbacks, including low levels in Eagle Mountain Lake resulting in high algae levels and invasive zebra mussels that damaged equipment needed to treat the water.

Gary Bender, who lives near Azle, said he and his neighbors worry about the low water levels.

“We’ve been under pretty severe restrictions. Our landscaping is dying,” he said.

Another water customer, Phyllis Tripolone, said she is frustrated that she is losing her yard since outdoor watering isn’t allowed.

“If we’re drinking the water, there should be a plan in place,” she said.

Community Water Supply said in a Sept. 22 post on its website that the parts for repair have arrived but it was unsure when it would be able to shut down and make the repairs. It asks that customers continue to conserve water.

“As you already know we are still dealing with the algae, but that issue will probably continue as long as we have low lake levels. We do not want to change out the parts at this time with the amount of algae in the lake for fear of damaging the new parts,” the post reads.

“We want to continued conserving water in effort to increase the water level in the tanks. This will allow us to have enough water stored in the tanks for the needed repairs to take place.”

The Star-Telegram called the Community Water Supply Corporation office — which is only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings — several times requesting comments from the manager and board members. There was no response other than an invitation to an upcoming board meeting.

Community Water Supply purchases raw water from the Tarrant Regional Water District. The supply comes from Eagle Mountain Lake.

Chad Lorance, a spokesperson for the water district, said warm temperatures often lead to algae growing in reservoirs, which can cause problems for water treatment plants.

“The takeaway is that what is occurring is not abnormal for our current conditions,” Lorance said.

Lorance added that levels would be even lower in Eagle Mountain if the district didn’t have a pipeline to send water from other lakes to Eagle Mountain. The district has moved 34.4 billion gallons of water into Eagle Mountain since the spring of 2022. That accounts for more than 80% of the water in the lake, Lorance said.