Rain fell in parts of Stephens County the past two days, but the water level in Waurika Lake continues to fall.
The lake level has dropped nearly another inch since it crossed a threshold two weeks ago that theoretically could have prompted the City of Duncan to ban all outdoor water usage.
The people who are elected to make those sorts of decisions don’t want to do that, and neither does the city manager.
City Manager Jim Frieda said Saturday he will not recommend that water rationing be tightened, but he expects a discussion among council members when they convene on Tuesday.
On Saturday, the conservation pool at the lake was 38.6 percent full, according to readings supplied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
When the Duncan City Council last met on March 13, the lake was 39.5 percent full.
The lower lake level is not a surprise.
“I kind of expected that,” Frieda said. “That’s why I was hoping for some substantial rain this weekend.”
The city has been under Stage 3 rationing since March 2013. It restricts outdoor water usage such as lawn watering to Wednesdays and Saturdays from midnight to 9 a.m. from March 1 through Oct. 31.
From Nov. 1 through Feb. 29, the hours during which outdoor water usage is allowed are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Stage 3 rationing applies to vehicle washing, hosing down sidewalks and driveways, filling up pools and other recreational uses.
Repeat offenders of the rationing rules have been fined.
Car dealers have hired water trucks from outside Duncan to power wash their vehicles. In addition, local residents with their own water wells are able to water their lawns at will, though passersby may not understand the difference.
The rationing ordinance applies to homes, businesses, medical facilities, schools and city facilities.
The ordinance states the city will invoke Stage 4 rationing when Waurika Lake falls below 40 percent of its conservation pool, but no action was taken on March 13 when the lake fell below that mark.
The City Council and city administration have adopted a wait-and-see approach to further rationing because of its economic impact and the public backlash it likely would receive.
There was a brief discussion about whether to fill the city’s popular Fuqua Pool a few months ago but it opened on schedule Saturday even though it’s a technical violation to fill up a kiddie pool under Stage 3 rationing.
While the falling water level of Waurika Lake is a serious matter, Frieda noted that Duncan’s two reservoirs known as Lake Fuqua and Humphreys Lake have enough water to supply more than 18 months of consumption.
In effect, the message from Frieda and the city’s leaders is there is no reason to panic.
The Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District board is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss and possibly take action to fix a long-standing problem that continues to grow.
Besides lack of rain, Waurika Lake has a serious problem with silt, which has collected around the lake pump house.
Estimates to remove 105,000 acres of cubic silt range between $2.5 and $6 million.
Built in 1977 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waurika Lake was created to supply water to Duncan, Lawton and other southwest Oklahoma communities.
Besides being plagued by the ongoing drought, the collection of sediment and other particulates known as silt threatens to slowly strangle the lake.
If a lake ever “silts over” it effectively becomes a dead lake, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers experts.