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July 9, 2014

All-out water rationing back on the table in Duncan

DUNCAN — City Councilman Ritchie Dennington said Tuesday Duncan should prepare to impose a complete ban on outside watering next month unless significant drought relief occurs.

    “It’s evident that we’ve got into the part of the year where we’re not going to see any more rain,” he said. “One time in the last 10 years July has been wet. I think we need to, at least by the first of August, prepare ourselves to move into Stage 4 (rationing).”

   Stage 4 water rationing would ban all outdoor watering, including the hand-watering of plants, but Dennington said he would favor exempting car washes and plant nurseries from the restrictions.

          Duncan has been under Stage 3 water rationing since March 2013, which allows lawn watering  on Wednesdays and Saturdays from midnight to 9  a.m.

    Dennington made his remarks after City Manager Jim Frieda reported that the water level at Waurika Lake, the city’s main source of drinking water, has not increased despite recent rainfall in and around Duncan.

   Waurika Lake is now at 36.8 percent capacity, well below the 40 percent level at which Stage 4 rationing is imposed under a city ordinance.

    After the council meeting adjourned, Mayor Gene Brown was the only elected official to voice disagreement with the idea of impose stricter rationing.

    Brown said he doesn’t believe the city would “gain that much” in water conservation with an all-out ban on outdoor watering.

    Duncan has cut its water consumption by more than half under Stage 3 rationing.

   The city used about 9 million gallons per day two years ago compared with 4.2 million gallons per day now.

    The city manager cautioned council members on Tuesday night that Stage 4 rationing would further reduce revenues from city water sales, which supplement sales tax receipts to pay police, firefighters and other city workers.

    The city is now calculating how much more water might be conserved with Stage 4 rationing, according to Frieda.

     About 2,000 water meters in Duncan serve sprinkler systems, Frieda said. Another 9,500 meters serve homes and businesses in the city. The council added a $5 surcharge to every meter in the city last month to help the city pay for its debt service for its share of Waurika Lake water storage.

    Even so, the council members say they remain concerned about the long-term water supply.

     “We’ve been skating on thin ice the last two months,” said Councilman Tommy Edwards, referring to Waurika Lake levels dropping below 40 percent in early May.

    Councilman Ricky Mayes said none of the council wants to impose stricter water rationing, but Councilman Mike Nelson said the council may have no choice.

     If nothing else, Nelson said he was glad the council was able to “save” the backyard gardens of Duncan residents by postponing the imposition of Stage 4 water rationing during the spring  and early summer months.

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Duncan mayor Gene Brown and vice mayor Dr. Mike Nelson share a comedic moment during Tuesday night's city council meeting.