Posted on August 17, 2022
A portion of Falcon Lake will soon be dredged to help restore water access in rural Zapata County, where recent drought has caused that community to struggle to maintain water flows.
Equipment needed to carry out the dredging process arrived in the county from Arizona on Monday, according to an announcement by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
The equipment will be used to dredge some 6,000-8,000 cubic yards of sediment within the Siesta Shores Water Control and Improvement District, which depends on the reservoir as the sole source of water for about 2,000 residents of the Siesta Shores community.
“This equipment will allow us to reset our lake’s ecosystem and help ensure that Falcon Lake has sufficient water to supply Zapata County and the surrounding areas for the foreseeable future,” Cuellar stated in a news release.
For months, the water levels at the international reservoir have been falling due to a combination of drought and a lack of inflows from tributaries located largely in Mexico.
By July, water levels had plummeted so far that pumps in Zapata County were no longer submerged, forcing officials there to turn to a portable pump to continue accessing the water, according to a report by Border Report.
“This equipment will help both Siesta Shores WCID and Zapata Waterworks in dealing with low water levels in Falcon Lake due to the ongoing drought,” said Maria-Elena Giner, commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission.
The IBWC oversees Falcon and Amistad International Reservoirs, which supply water to the border counties south of El Paso.
“Dredging should commence within a short time to secure adequate water supplies for the residents of Zapata County,” Giner stated.
The dredging will have localized benefits, including removing debris, unwanted plant growth and sediment.
And though the project will increase water depth and volume where the lake meets Zapata County, the dredging will have little direct effect further downstream.
According to Water Data for Texas, the lake was only 9.5% full as of Monday. At that level, the water has already fallen below the threshold of the spillway gates located at Falcon Dam in Starr County.
However, water continues to be able to move downstream of the dam for use in the Rio Grande Valley through a hydroelectric power plant whose outfalls lie lower than the gates.