NORMAN — By next week, residents will be asked to take mandatory water conservation steps, something normally reserved for the heat of summer.
An ongoing drought and Lake Thunderbird's low level reduced the city's water supply, making conservation a priority even during the winter months, city officials said.
City council members gave the go-ahead to City Manager Steve Lewis on Tuesday to institute a mandatory water conservation plan. The council discussed the move in a conference before its regular business meeting.
Utilities Director Ken Komiske said the mandate will go into effect by early next week.
The plan bans all outdoor watering or irrigation on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On other days, it bans outdoor watering or irrigation between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and allows for “odd/even” outdoor watering based on street addresses during other hours.
The conservation steps come on the heels of a request from the executive director of Lake Thunderbird's governing body that the city cut usage from Lake Thunderbird by 10 percent.
Randy Warden, executive director of the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, said Lake Thunderbird's level is about 7½ feet below the conservation pool level of 1,039 feet.
The lake provides drinking water for three cities, although Norman's reliance on the lake exceeds that of the other two, Warden said.
Komiske said Norman gets 66 percent of its drinking water from Lake Thunderbird, with the remainder coming from wells.
The three cities share an allocation of 21,600 acre-feet of lake water annually. Norman has 43.8 percent of the total allocation. Midwest City has a 40.4 percent allocation, and Del City's allocation is 15.8 percent.
Midwest City and Del City do not use the full amount allocated to them each year, but Norman does. In fact, Komiske said, Norman has exceeded its allocation in 10 of the past 12 years.
A 10 percent reduction in use translates to a need for a 5-gallon-per-person savings each day, Komiske said.
While water demand in the winter is not high, the reduction in supply means the situation could worsen once warm weather arrives, Komiske said. Predictions are that a drought could persist or intensify over the next two or three years, he said.
In theory, Komiske said, “water saved now would be there for use when summer arrives, but that depends on whether the lake level continues to fall due to the drought.”
Warden said further reductions could be ordered if the lake level continues to drop.
Tips to cut usage
Besides limiting outdoor watering, residents can take steps to help cut usage, Komiske said.
He recommends that residents do one less laundry load a week; reduce shower time by one to two minutes; turn off the faucet while shaving or brushing teeth; and take advantage of gray water. Gray water is water left over from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing and bathing that is safe for reuse in irrigation activities such as watering flower beds.
Conserving water is the right thing to do whether it is mandatory or not, Komiske said.
“I tell anyone who talks to me about it that odd/even watering is the way to go. It builds a stronger root system than daily watering, and it saves water,” he said.