Skyrocketing water use in Oklahoma City during the worst of the ongoing heat wave has prompted officials to implement a mandatory water rationing system until conditions improve.
The Oklahoma City Utilities Department announced the mandatory odd/even watering program Wednesday for the first time since last summer's drought. The city began a voluntary program only the day before.
Residents and businesses at an even-numbered address can water on even-numbered dates, and those at odd-numbered addresses can water on odd-numbered dates.
The rationing also applies to Oklahoma City suburbs that use city water. Utilities spokeswoman Debbie Ragan said cities and other areas affected by the rationing are Blanchard, Canadian County Rural Water District No. 3, Deer Creek Rural Water District, Edmond, El Reno, Moore, Mustang, Newcastle, Norman, Piedmont, Pottawatomie County Rural Water District No. 3, Shawnee, Warr Acres and Yukon.
Some without water
Water use has been so high in recent days that some utility customers in areas that usually have low water pressure on high water-use days have had no water at all, Ragan said.
“We need help bringing that water demand and daily use down so we can help these people with no water,” Ragan said.
Average daily water use in Oklahoma City had hovered around 170 million gallons per day for most of July, which is manageable, Ragan said. But use jumped from about 189 million gallons by Friday all the way to 198 million gallons on Tuesday, quickly approaching the all-time daily record of 202 million gallons set about a year ago.
“Being above 190 million gallons per day, we were seeing longer-lasting periods of low water pressure, and it deteriorated to no water at some times of the day for some customers,” Ragan said. “We made it pretty well through June and July. But when we came across this extremely hot spell, water use just went up.”
The water rationing applies only to sprinklers and irrigation systems. Hand watering still is allowed at any time.
Plant experts have recommended watering only late at night or early in the morning to avoid losing much of the water to evaporation, which also helps save money. People with Bermuda grass also can let the grass go brown and dormant because it will come back with rain.
Letting the grass go dormant can free up more water to keep alive more sensitive plants. Watering plants along the sides of a house also will water the house foundation to help prevent damage.
Violators of the water rationing are subject to a fine of $167 for a first offense and $302 for subsequent offenses.