Lake Meredith


Who does CRMWA supply water to?

Amarillo, Borger, Brownfield, Lamesa, Levelland, Lubbock, Pampa, Plainview, O’Donnell, Slaton, Tahoka.  These are the member cities that petitioned the state legislators to create the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority (CRMWA) in the 1950's with the plan of constructing a water supply reservoir.  That goal was realized in 1967 when the first water deliveries were made to the cities.  These member cities have funded the construction cost of Sanford Dam and the aqueduct system (approx. $82 million) and its annual operational and maintenance costs since that time.  CRMWA’s member cities have also funded 100% of the $300 million groundwater rights and wellfield acquired within the last 15 years.  The Bureau of Reclamation was contracted to design and oversee construction of the dam and aqueduct system for the cities because of their expertise, but the cities paid back that cost.

CRMWA is a not-for-profit organization that acts as a water utility for the cities and simply passes on cost to each city based on their allocation and location.  Each member city has one or two Directors who represent their city and govern policy matters for CRMWA.

There are other local cities who get CRMWA water indirectly, meaning it is sold to them from one of the CRMWA member cities.

Where does Lake Meredith get its water?

The Canadian River supplies most of the water for Lake Meredith.  There are other tributaries within the Lake Meredith's watershed that provide inflow into the Lake, but they make up a smaller percentage.  Even though there is normally a small base flow in the Canadian River, it is the large storm events that make a difference in lake levels.

How much water evaporates from Lake Meredith?

Evaporation drops the lake about 5.5 feet in an average year and depending on the depth of the lake (which affects the surface area), that represents a very large volume of water.  When the lake is 40 feet deep, evaporation is about 17,500 acre-feet or 5.7 billion gallons per year.  On hot summer days, that means as much as 70 million gallons can be lost to evaporation in one day.  When the lake is 90 feet deep, that number can be over 200 million gallons per day.  

Will snow in the mountains help Lake Meredith?

Conchas Lake and Ute Lake are both on the Canadian River upstream from Lake Meredith.  Any run-off that results from snow melt will go to these lakes first, therefore reducing the likelihood that this water would reach Lake Meredith.  Local snow fall is beneficial, but it generally doesn’t have a major impact on the Lake since much of the precipitation tends to soak into the ground rather than run-off.


Why doesn’t Ute Lake in New Mexico release water to Texas?

The States of New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are all parties to the Canadian River Compact created by agreement of the three states and the federal government in 1950.  The Compact is administered by representatives appointed by the Governors of each state and a chairperson appointed by the President.  It has authority over each state pertaining to issues related to the Canadian River.  According to the Compact, New Mexico can hold 200,000 acre-feet in Ute Lake before it would have to release water to Texas.  Currently, that level is about 3 feet below their spillway.  Any water stored above that level must be released to the Canadian River and will eventually make its way to Lake Meredith.  Any amount below that or any water in Conchas Lake is not required to be released.  Texas also can only hold 500,000 acre-feet in Lake Meredith before we would have to release water for Oklahoma.  The 500,000 acre-feet level in Lake Meredith would represent a depth of around 102 feet.


Has anything changed over the years that could reduce the level in Lake Meredith?

It is possible that changes in land use, stock ponds, etc., have had a minor impact on the amount of runoff that drains to Lake Meredith, but one of the more notable changes has been the spread of salt cedar.  Because salt cedar spreads so quickly and uses a tremendous amount of water, we believe it has had an impact on the amount of water coming into Lake Meredith.  Over 30,000 acres of salt cedar have been sprayed along the Canadian River and tributaries.  Although salt cedar control will help to avoid loss of water once it is in the river or lake, CRMWA believes the largest factor affecting inflow into the Lake is lack of intense rains over the optimum portions of the watershed.


Can anything be done to help the level in Lake Meredith come up?

Because Lake Meredith is totally dependent on rainfall, very little can be done to improve the level in the Lake.  As mentioned above, reducing the amount of salt cedar will help runoff make it to the Lake, but that can only happen with the right kind of rains.  CRMWA has also improved the channel that feeds the lake with the intent of reducing the natural losses (evaporation, plant use, etc.) that would otherwise occur.


Should less water be pumped to the Cities to improve fishing and other recreational activities?

The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority (CRMWA) and Lake Meredith was created as a result of the efforts of eleven cities in the Panhandle and South Plains to create a water supply.  These member cities fund all of CRMWA’s operations and projects in order to have a long-term water supply.  It is important to use as much of this renewable supply (Lake Meredith) as possible and at the same time preserve those other resources that are not renewable (groundwater).  Lake Meredith was built as a water storage facility.  It was sized so that it could continue to supply water even during periods of drought.  Recreational benefits, while appreciated, were not the reason for the construction of the dam.


Can the water from the Canadian River reach Lake Meredith?

Most of the water that flows past the USGS gauging station north of Amarillo (at Hwy 287 and the Canadian River) does in fact reach Lake Meredith.  Comparisons between the gauging station records and Lake inflow data are performed every month.  While there have always been differences because of the inherent inaccuracies of such measurements, there is a strong correlation between the two values and that has not changed in recent years.  Improvements have been made to the channel in an effort to reduce losses, though this channel will only carry lower flows.  The historic flood events that had a major impact on the lake would not be contained in this smaller channel, but the goal is to get as much water as possible to the lake.


How much water does Lake Meredith supply to the cities?

Lake Meredith has provided between 20 and 25 billion gallons of water historically, which represents almost 70% of the total water needs of the cities.   That amount has been cut in half the last several years, due to the drought. CRMWA has supplemented their supply with groundwater since 2001.


Salt Cedar

Why is controlling salt cedar so important?

Salt Cedar is a non-native species that spreads rapidly and uses a tremendous amount of water.  CRMWA and others believe that it significantly reduces the amount of water flowing into Lake Meredith.  Controlling salt cedar is one thing we can do something about that will make a difference.


Is there any danger with spraying salt cedar on the river or around the Lake?

The chemicals used to control salt cedar, Habitat & Arsenal, have been extensively tested by both federal and state authorities and has been declared safe for use around the lake and near the river.



Does CRMWA supply groundwater in addition to water from Lake Meredith?

Yes, since late 2001, CRMWA has been blending Lake Meredith water with groundwater from the John C. Williams wellfield.  This wellfield was developed to improve water quality and also provide an additional source of water.  Since its development, CRMWA has acquired additional water rights becoming the largest owner of groundwater in the State of Texas.  In the last few years, CRWMA has supplied 100% groundwater due to the decline in Lake Meredith.


How long will this groundwater last?

There are several factors that will affect how long this water will last; most notably how much pumping occurs in the region by CRMWA and others.  With very little pumping by others, this water should last 100+ years. If the Lake recovers and regains its role as CRMWA’s main source of water, CRMWA’s groundwater could last much longer than 100 years.



Does CRMWA have a conservation program?

CRMWA has a water conservation plan that describes water loss goals throughout the distribution system, use of renewable vs. non-renewable resources, etc.  This is solely intended for CRMWA’s operations.  CRMWA does not have the authority to regulate conservation for the Member Cities, but rather CRMWA sets yearly allocations for the Cities based on the availability of water from Lake Meredith and the John C. Williams Wellfield.  Each City may choose to implement conservation measures, depending on their total supply of water and expected demands.  It should be noted however that CRMWA’s member cities have made huge strides in regard to conservation and expect that to be a prominent water strategy moving into the future.