Persistent drought has sunk the Lake Hefner water level to the lowest in its 66-year history, leaving boats and docks high and dry.
At 1,182 feet above sea level, the water level at Lake Hefner is 17 feet below the reservoir's maximum capacity and two feet lower than the previous record set in October, said Debbie Ragan, utilities spokeswoman for Oklahoma City.
“We've been watching the situation since last year's drought and looking at things we can do,” Ragan said. “It's been since the 1950s that we've had a drought that lasted for several years and you know we may be in for another.”
Hefner, a primary source of drinking water, is usually at its lowest during the hottest months, Ragan said. A lack of rain and snow last fall and this winter meant the lake was never replenished.
Ragan said the city's water trust is taking a hard look at conservation measures, ranging from public education and tips to mandatory restrictions. The city is considering drawing as much as 30,000 acre-feet of water from Canton Lake, north of Watonga, she said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns Canton Lake, but the city owns rights on all the water stored there, Ragan said.
Water drawn from Canton would be used for drinking water purposes only, Ragan said, and not to allay the frustrations of boaters and other recreational users of Lake Hefner.
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.
The city is permitted 131,000 acre feet of water from Lake Atoka and McGee Creek reservoirs and 80,000 acre feet from the reservoirs fed by the North Canadian system. Last year, the city used more than 157,000 acre-feet of water in total.
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.
“This is probably the worst it's ever been,” LaTresa Wright, harbor master at Lake Hefner, said Wednesday.
Wright said the harbor on the south side of the lake has become a boat graveyard, with as many as a thousand boats strung up off shore or elevated and secured in straps on the lake's dry bed, concrete docks and ramps sitting askew in the dirt.
About 3,000 people use Lake Hefner for recreational purposes each year, and about 550 rent wet or dry stall space at the harbor.
Most boat owners were able to secure their vessels or take them home beginning in July and August, Wright said, but others lay on the ground, their keels lodged in the mud.
Kenna Green's 23-foot sailboat sits on a trailer in her driveway.
Green, president of the Lake Hefner Boat Owner's Association, said she and other members pulled their boats and are looking for new hobbies to bide the time.
“Several of us have bought bicycles, and so we end up biking around the lake instead of sailing in the lake,” she said.
Green said the lease agreement for stall space clearly notes that dry spells may close it during some seasons, but that they are still disappointed.