The Duncan Banner

March 26, 2014

City debating total outdoor watering ban

Steve Olafson
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — With the water level at Waurika Lake near the crisis level, the Duncan City Council on Tuesday contemplated its options should the city move to the next stage of rationing — a total ban on the outdoor use of water.

Nobody wants to do it, but it may necessary.

If Waurika Lake drops below 40 percent capacity, Stage 4 rationing can go into effect by executive order of City Manager Jim Frieda, which would ban outdoor water use.

The ban could include a shutdown of commercial car washes,  but there is disagreement on that point, Frieda said.

Whatever the case with car washes, Frieda attempted to get a sense from the council members how much discretion that want him to use should Waurika Lake’s water level dip below 40 percent.

Frieda specifically asked if council members thought it wise to wait until southern Oklahoma’s so-called rainy season — April through June — has concluded before any Stage 4 water rationing is declared.

A consensus did not emerge among the council, but there is agreement the topic should remain a regular item on the council’s agenda for the near future.

Water rationing has been successful in curtailing water use in Duncan while everyone hopes, and sometimes prays, that drought conditions will end.

“The public has done a great job,” said Mayor Gene Brown.

City water sales have decreased 28 percent since 2012, said City Treasurer Patti Clift.

Duncan Public Works Director Scott Vaughn said the city typically treats about 9 million gallons of water in the summer, but treated just 6 million last summer as residents cut back usage.

The decreased water usage has caused a $1.5 million decrease in city revenues since 2011, Clift said.

The city began assessing $100 fines six weeks ago after warning letters and follow-up letters failed to convince some residents to comply with the new water rules. Second offenses bring a $150 fine and a third  offense carries a $250 fine.

About 117 Duncan residents have been fined so far, according to city officials.

Permitted watering times are midnight to 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays only under Stage 3 rationing.

Duncan and southern Oklahoma have been in a drought for nearly four years. Rainfall in Stephens County so far this year is 2 inches below normal.

In other business, the council:

* Tabled a proposal to add electronic and vapor cigarettes to the city resolution that prohibits smoking on city property.

* Approved a contract for  police and fire  services at the Ray of Hope Church for a spring festival and Easter egg hunt on April 19.

* Approve a 36-month, $6,036 lease of four Dell laptop computers for the police department.

* Awarded a janitorial contract to the Farler Group for $2,686 per month.