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Oklahoma Watch: Drought continues to parch Lone Chimney Water District

East of Stillwater, things are getting dry at the Lone Chimney Water District.
BY RON J. JACKSON JR. Published: March 24, 2013

If the lake water runs out before then, member towns will be on their own. Glencoe, a Payne County town of 600, is especially vulnerable: The town has no backup water source, except for a water tower.

“From what I understand, if Lone Chimney shuts down, Glencoe will only have enough water in its tower to last three hours,” said Zachary Cavett, a Payne County commissioner.

Wells or bust

Worried that lack of water will endanger their cattle, some ranchers are digging their own wells, with varying success.

Fuss, the cattleman, whose ranch is a few miles from the lake, said he dug his two wells for $8,000.

“Best money I ever spent,” he said.

He no longer has to worry about the shortage or pay $400 to $500 a month to the water association.

Cavett drilled two wells on his property near Glencoe. Both were dry.

An alternative to drilling is to haul water, bought from nearby towns or friends.

In Yale and Terlton, wells might be the only hope if Lone Chimney Lake runs dry. In Yale, three six-year-old wells are only 20 feet deep and under normal circumstances their water would need treatment to meet federal standards, said Yale City Manager Clara Welch.

Yet she said there would be no time to properly treat the water. Yale residents would have to boil their water.

Even so, she said, “we're just not sure we can generate enough power from our pumps to provide water to the entire town.”

Yale is building a $650,000 water treatment plant scheduled for completion in August. That facility would treat water drawn from wells in emergencies, but won't be completed in time should Lone Chimney shut down.

In Terlton, a town of 35 in Pawnee County, “we have four wells drilled, but they're 20 years old,” said Jon Harrod, manager of the distribution plant in the town. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality shut them down years ago because of high iron and manganese levels.

“We're hoping DEQ would allow us to use those wells, but DEQ won't let us know until, if and when, that time arrives,” Harrod said.

Conserving at home

In Yale, some citizens say they are doing their part to conserve water.

Nancy and Don Griffin refused to plant flowers this fall, watched two trees die in their yard, and water trees and plants from the rainwater barrels. In the house, they only wash large loads of clothes and recycle water when possible. They flush toilets as little as possible.

“Do you want water in the tap or do you want beautiful trees?” Nancy Griffin said.

In Glencoe, Town Clerk Shelly Andrews began conserving about three years ago.

“We turn off the faucets whenever we're brushing our teeth or washing our hands,” she said. “Whenever I clean out the dog's water bowl, I always dump the dirty water into a plant vase.”

Motive to save

Lone Chimney members have been blitzed with conservation literature attached to their monthly bills for two years.

Water district customers cut back nearly 4 million gallons of water a month from December to February, but some of that decrease can be attributed to member towns such as Morrison and Agra going off association water.