Oklahoma City announced Thursday it is immediately implementing an odd/even watering program for residents and businesses that will remain in effect until further notice.
Residents whose address numbers end in an even number may water their yards on even-numbered days. Likewise, residents whose house numbers end in an odd number may water on odd-numbered days.
City officials urged residents and business owners to consider completely turning off sprinkler systems, and warned more stringent outdoor water use restrictions are likely as the drought continues.
“Oklahoma City’s water-supply lakes, Hefner, Overholser and Draper, are just over half full,” said utilities Director Marsha Slaughter. “We don’t know how long the drought will last, but it’s important that residents consider water conservation when they plan their landscaping, choose plants and renovate their home.”
Cities that use Oklahoma City water are also subject to the water rationing. Suburbs and water districts subject to the new restrictions are: Blanchard, Edmond, El Reno, Moore, Mustang, Newcastle, Norman, Piedmont, Yukon, Canadian County Rural Water District #3, the Deer Creek Rural Water Corporation, Tinker Air Force Base and Pottawatomie County Rural Water District #3.
The conservation efforts are a result of forecasts from The National Weather Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center that predict lower than normal rainfall will continue through spring 2013. The drought conditions Oklahoma City has experienced since 2011 will continue for at least several more months.
Climatologists say 2011 and 2012 together was the fourth-driest two-year period on record, and water levels at each of the city’s storage reservoirs are at an all-time low.
At a meeting of the Oklahoma City Water Trust this week, members discussed enacting more conservation measures after being told new residential water connections are up 38 percent this year over last.
Future restrictions discussed include limiting outdoor watering to one day a week or even steeper water prices in an effort to cut back on consumption.
Pete White, chairman of the water trust, is calling for a comprehensive water policy with permanent conservation measures that would “change the way we permit people to use water.”
“I think we have an ethical, moral responsibility to the places we take the water from ... that we’re being good stewards of the water when it gets here,” he said.
He also called on the city to consider committing a small portion of water bond revenues, currently obligated to drinking water and infrastructure development, to preserve recreational use of water at Lake Hefner and elsewhere.
At 1,182 feet above sea level, city officials report the water level at Lake Hefner is 17 feet below the reservoir’s maximum capacity and 2 feet lower than the previous record set in October. Persistent drought has sunk the Lake Hefner water level to the lowest in its 66-year history, leaving boats and docks high and dry.
Hefner, a primary source of drinking water, is usually at its lowest during the hottest months. A lack of rain and snow last fall and this winter left the lake unreplenished.
In addition to conservation efforts, city officials have reported they are considering drawing as much as 30,000 acre-feet of water from Canton Lake, north of Watonga. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns Canton Lake, but the city owns rights on all the water. Oklahoma City residents draw an average of 110 million gallons a day of water from Hefner, and almost twice that amount during the summer months.
The city also stores water at Lake Overholser, which, like Hefner, is fed by the North Canadian River, and at Lake Stanley Draper, which is fed by Lake Atoka in the southeast part of the state.
The city also owns water rights to McGee Creek, near Atoka.
Contributing: Zeke Campfield, Staff Writer
How it works
Odd/even watering rationing requires that residential and business customers whose address ends with 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 may water only on odd-numbered days (Jan. 17, Jan. 19, etc.) and customers whose address ends with 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 may water only on even-numbered days (Jan. 18, Jan. 20, etc.).
How to save
• Residents are encouraged to conserve water and reduce their water bills by installing faucets that use less water, low-flow toilets and high-efficiency water-using appliances.
• Use drought-tolerant plant materials in landscaping or gardens.
• Avoid fertilizing, aerating, dethatching, top dressing or transplanting. Avoid new growth.
• City officials also remind customers that brown Bermuda grass is dormant, not dead. Water plants and shrubs less frequently, but deeply and thoroughly.