Drought, dry wells plague Oklahoma farmers and ranchers

by Silas Allen Published: August 15, 2012

As a crippling drought continues to weigh down on Oklahoma, some rural residents are finding themselves in a difficult position — their wells have run dry.

The situation is particularly critical for farmers and ranchers, who, in some cases, are left without a way to irrigate their crops and keep their livestock watered.

But the problem isn't limited to farmers who irrigate using water wells. Farmers who normally irrigate from Lake Altus-Lugert in the southwestern part of the state weren't allowed to pull water from the reservoir this year because of low lake levels.

Brian Vance, spokesman for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, said the agency has received several reports of wells running dry, particularly in the western part of the state. The agency doesn't keep comprehensive data on how many wells have run dry, he said.

When Oklahoma sees an extended period of drought, Vance said, it's relatively common for residents in rural areas and smaller communities to see their wells run dry. The problem tends to be the worst in western Oklahoma, he said.

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese said the situation facing Oklahoma's farmers is worse than usual but isn't yet as dire as last year, when the state saw 14 consecutive months of drought conditions.

Particularly in southwest Oklahoma, farmers who use water wells may be at an advantage over those who draw their water from Lake Altus-Lugert because they are able to irrigate until those wells run dry. But that advantage only lasts so long, Reese said.

“They go as far as they can,” he said. “But when they run out, they run out.”

Crops are stunted

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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