Water shortageThe drought in Texas is taking its toll on Wichita Falls, where the water level at the city’s lake have fallen to just over 20 percent. This week, the city council made a controversial decision to allow car wash businesses to keep operating using city water even after the lake level hits the crucial 20-percent benchmark.

Originally, the councilors had decided the car washes would have to stop operating if the water hit that point. But on Tuesday they changed their minds, according to TexomasHomepage.com.

According to the news report:

Most of the comments by councilors for the extension were all about not hurting businesses. Particularly, that one business shouldn’t be targeted for water use, and how employees would be affected.

All American Car Wash has decided to haul in water when, and if the city cuts off its supply. Manager Jim Caddotte says he appreciates councilors pushing back the deadline to find an alternative water source, if lakes hit 20% before the end of January. However, he is still not looking forward to the cost increase if that day comes.

“The additional cost of water will change from approximately 4-6 thousand dollars a month in our water bills today to approximately $40,000 in hauled water. The water is cheap but as you know diesel is expensive and paying people to get it to you. So it’s quite a challenge for us to be viable in that,” says Caddotte.

Many people in Wichita Falls are glad to be able to keep getting their cars washed. Others, according to the report, said they wished the city had planned for a drought in advance by building a pipeline to keep the city’s water supply fed. The conversations playing out in Wichita Falls are also playing out in other cities across the American West, where prolonged drought has continually raised the issue of what to do with car wash businesses.

Balancing the need to conserve water with the need to remain pro-business is challenging. Frequently, the car wash industry has succeeded in persuading public officials that car wash businesses are often quite efficient with their water use. Other industries, such as food service, also use significant amounts of water.

The city water use extension in Wichita Falls goes through January, at which point the council will have another decision to make.