The coming week will bring more than tables full of food. Unless Southwest Oklahoma experiences flooding rainfall in the next few days, it will see the city enter into mandatory outdoor watering restrictions.
Members of the City Council voted in October to change the method by which the city staff determines how water may be used outdoors in times of drought. Until this week, the elevation of Lake Lawtonka had been the gauge, with its elevation the sole determining factor on whether city officials would ask residents to voluntarily curtail their outdoor water use or order them to do so. Beginning Thursday, a new policy takes the combined usable water capacity of all three city lakes Lawtonka, Ellsworth and Waurika to determine whether Lawton water customers will fall under voluntary outdoor usage (Stage 1); mandatory with some exceptions (Stage 2); or mandatory with exceptions only for health-related water usage (Stage 3). At last calculation, the three city lakes and their combined usable water capacity was less than 56 percent, qualifying Lawton for Stage 2.
Public Works Director Jerry Ihler said that, unless rainfall greatly increases the elevations of city lakes, he is prepared to recommend that the city move into Stage 2 restrictions, mandatory water use guidelines that, with the exception of short-term emergencies, haven't been used in the city since 2006.
"I will send the certification to the mayor and city manager that says we are in Stage 2," Ihler said, explaining that certification will contain the details on the percentage of usable water storage available to the city, based on existing conditions.
Ihler said while he can't guarantee what is now voluntary will become mandatory those decisions are signed into effect by the mayor, based on the certification provided by the city engineer/public works director he feels the city will qualify for Stage 2, despite the time of year. Stage 2 means the combined usable water in the three lakes is 60 percent or less. Stage 3 occurs when the combined usable water is 50 percent or less.
"Whether it's summer or winter, if the usable water available to us gets below the level set for Stage 2, then we should (go into Stage 2)," Ihler said, adding the effects may not be noticeable to customers because most people don't do outside watering in the cooler months of the year.
Those who do should pay attention to the designation for Stage 2, because while there are exceptions for outside water use, the restrictions will be enforced.
Stage 2 means water customers will be ordered to curtail their outside water use to the hours between midnight and 9 a.m. every other day. Alternating watering days means that odd-numbered addresses may water on odd-numbered days, and even-numbered addresses on even-numbered days.