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 mkimball@opubco.com Published: September 14, 2012
Advertisement
;

Last year's drought brought all-time lows in water levels at Overholser and Hefner, but this year's drought wasn't as hard on them, Ragan said. Both lakes reached all-time lows last October when they were each about 3 feet lower than their current levels.

Capacity expanding

Various projects to expand Oklahoma City's capacity to draw raw water from other parts of the state and to pump out more drinking water are under way. The city is expected to spend nearly half a billion dollars in the next five years on improving its water supply infrastructure.

Oklahoma City officials know that water use will increase along with the city's growing population, especially if weather in recent years is more typical of what's ahead for a while in Oklahoma than the weather of previous decades. The state received an above-average amount of rain for most of the preceding 40 years, Ragan noted.

“We have to continue to expand the water system,” Ragan said.

Though the city is expanding its capability to bring in and clarify water for its utility customers, its right to draw water from southeast Oklahoma is under dispute. The city, state and tribal authorities are embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over water rights currently controlled by the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust.