CANTON — It’s hard to get too excited about a lake that remains nearly 12 feet below normal, but Jeff Converse is trying.
Still reeling from the loss of 30,000 acre-feet of water to Oklahoma City last year, Canton Lake has seen drastically low water levels for months. But Converse, the president of the Canton Lake Association, sounds optimistic after a wet spring.
“I guess the best way you could put it is, it’s stable,” he said.
“That’s a victory, as far as I’m concerned.”
Five of the six reservoirs from which Oklahoma City draws its water still were several feet below normal Thursday afternoon. But a rainy spring has left the city’s water supply in better shape than it was in mid-May.
May and June brought more rain than usual to much of northwest Oklahoma. An Oklahoma Mesonet weather network site in Fairview, about 18 miles northeast of Canton, measured nearly 6 inches of rain in June. That’s about 1.4 inches more than the town receives in an average June.
In Woodward, which lies upstream from Canton Lake, a Mesonet site measured about 6.5 inches of rain in June — about 2.3 inches more than average.
Converse, who lives in Woodward and owns a trailer at Canton Lake, said the heavy rains the area has seen in late spring and early summer have improved the situation somewhat. The lake was 11.98 feet below normal Thursday, up from 12.6 feet below normal on May 27. Converse hopes that if the lake levels don’t dip too far over the summer, a rainy autumn could help refill the lake.
“Keeping it steady or up a little bit through the summer is progress,” he said.
Water levels at Canton Lake have hovered between 12 and 13 feet below normal since January 2013, when Oklahoma City drew 30,000 acre-feet of water to replenish Lake Hefner.
Although the lake is beginning to rebound, low lake levels have meant fewer visitors to Canton, which relies on tourism dollars for its livelihood.
Alan Cox owns the Overlook Cafe, a restaurant and convenience store. Cox said the restaurant saw about half as many Fourth of July weekend visitors as he would expect in a normal year. During a normal Independence Day weekend, there would be no empty tables in his restaurant and crowded aisles in the convenience store. That wasn’t the case this year, he said.
“There was steady traffic, but it just wasn’t the mob like normal,” Cox said.
OKC water supply good
Debbie Ragan, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Utilities Department, said the city’s available water supply rose somewhat after the spring rains, but some of that water has been lost to evaporation. The water supply is in good shape for now, she said, but if the city sees a stretch of several weeks without rain, the city could enact more stringent watering restrictions.
The city is currently under mandatory, permanent odd-even watering restrictions, meaning residents with odd-numbered addresses may water on odd-numbered days, and residents with even-numbered addresses may water on even-numbered days.
John Riggs, director of operations for OKC Riversport, said the difference in the water levels at Lake Overholser are visible to paddlers. The lake was 3.1 feet below normal Thursday afternoon, up from 4.5 feet below normal on May 27.
The company’s kayak coaches and guides paddle through the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, just west of Oklahoma City. The rising lake levels are most visible when paddlers pass under the State Highway 66 bridge north of the Route 66 Boathouse.
“There’s quite a bit of difference,” Riggs said.