ALTUS — Walt Duncan starts each day before the sun rises to make sure his putting greens are in tiptop shape.
As the course superintendent of the Greens Golf Course in Altus, it's Duncan's job to keep the course manicured.
But with drought conditions and water restrictions wracking the city, Duncan said he's wondering whether it's only a matter of time before the course, and his source of income, is dried up.
“If things get worse and we don't get any rain they might shut our water off completely,” Duncan said. “As long as the greens are OK then we'll stay open. People need their drinking water and that comes first.”
Altus has had less than 6 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, forcing the city to issue an emergency ordinance in mid-April that took the city to Stage 3 water conservation levels.
In the month of April alone, Oklahoma City received more than 7 inches of rain, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
Under Stage 3 regulations, customers are asked to restrict outside watering to one day a week between midnight and 5 a.m. for automatic or underground sprinkler systems, and from 8 p.m. to midnight for aboveground systems. There is also no filling of empty swimming pools, except after repairs, and car washing is limited to once a week.
Altus pulls its water from the Tom Steed Reservoir, which is nearly 30 miles northeast of the city. When the Stage 3 restrictions were put in place, the reservoir had dipped below 40 percent full.
Craig Tockey, the facilities and recreation supervisor for Altus, said lake levels continue to drop, hitting 32 percent on Wednesday. If the decline continues, more restrictions could be placed on the city.
“We are getting close to the lake being at 30 percent full,” Tockey said.
“We are seeking out new sources of water and we are studying some wells that hopefully are good wells, and we will be able to get our water supply back to normal hopefully,” he said.
Tockey said it's been hard watching the news and seeing other parts of the state get significant rainfall while Altus only gets sprinkles.
Over the past 30 years, Altus has averaged 29.17 inches of rain a year. But since 2010, the average has been 16.5 inches.
“It's disheartening,” Tockey said. “We haven't been able to irrigate our cotton crops in two years. Everything is green enough right now, but that won't last once the heat rises.”
Tockey said city officials will continue to seek other ways of getting water to Altus, but for now everyone will have to make due.
“At this rate, you're looking at about three years left worth of water in the reservoir,” he said.
“It's pretty tough, but citizens are doing their part and I feel confident that we will come through it,” Tockey said.