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Second straight summer of drought hurts Oklahoma City reservoirs

Rain on Thursday may have marked the unofficial end of the dry and hot season in Oklahoma for 2012, but a second consecutive drought this summer was tough on Oklahoma City's drinking water reservoirs.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Published: September 14, 2012

The rainy start Thursday to the Oklahoma State Fair might not be the best of news for fairgoers, but the moisture means welcome relief for Oklahoma City's beleaguered drinking water reservoirs.

A second consecutive summer featuring a punishing drought led to more record-breaking water use by Oklahoma City utility customers this year, city Utilities Department spokeswoman Debbie Ragan said. Lake Hefner, Lake Overholser and Lake Stanley Draper are also all well below their normal levels.

A record of 189 million gallons of water used in one day stood for years until about 202 million gallons was used in 2011. But that record was eclipsed yet again on Aug. 1, when customers used 203 million gallons, according to city data.

By the end of July, water use was routinely about 190 million gallons per day, she said. But the cooler temperatures have dropped that to roughly 135 million gallons per day, and the rain that arrived Thursday should help put another dent in usage levels.

Lakes low

Lake Stanley Draper's water level this summer was affected not only by the drought, but also by the Atoka Pipeline project that reduced water flow to the lake from 2009 to 2011. It was down about 20 feet Thursday from its full level, Ragan said.

“We haven't had a chance to really fill it,” she said. “It's probably about a year behind ... because of the drought.”

Lake Hefner also took a “hard hit” from the drought and is down about 12 feet from its full level, Ragan said. Lake Overholser is down about 7 feet.

Oklahoma City also owns water rights in Canton Lake, which is about a two-hour drive northeast of town. The city drew water from Canton Lake last summer, but with the lake down about 8 feet from normal as of Thursday, city officials will likely wait until rain helps it recover before drawing water again, Ragan said.

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