More restrictions on outdoor watering, price hikes and increased rationing enforcement are being considered by the city of Oklahoma City as it grapples with an ongoing drought.
Marsha Slaughter, director of the Oklahoma City Water/Waste Water Utilities department, said presentations likely will be made over the next few weeks to the Oklahoma City Council and the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust. Despite the appearance of a depleted Lake Hefner reservoir along its shoreline, Slaughter said she is not worried about the city running out of water.
“The lakes won't be almost full like we've enjoyed in past years, but they won't be empty,” Slaughter said. “We reviewed all the historical rainfall data available, and learned that even in the long-term droughts there were always rains that helped replenish the water supply lakes.”
The city last week implemented odd/even water rationing.
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.
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.
“We don't know how long the drought will last,” Slaughter said. “Recent forecasts say it will continue through the spring — which are typically our wet months.”
Slaughter said the city is diverting stormwater into Lake Hefner. Reuse of treated wastewater as drinking water, and expansion of the city's current reuse system to existing irrigation customers is also an option.
“We reuse about eight million gallons of treated wastewater each day in power plants and on a golf course,” Slaughter said.
Part of the strained supply, Slaughter said, is due to continued housing development and an increase in customers. She said water use increased from 100 million gallons a day in 2010 to 111 million gallons a day in 2012.