Pawnee County Water Supply On Verge Of Drying Up

Customers are urged to cut back usage by as much as 50 percent or Lone Chimney Lake will be bare by next month, official says.

Wednesday, December 19th 2012, 5:39 pm

By: Craig Day

Any kind of moisture, even if it is snow, would be welcome for many people across Oklahoma. It's dangerously dry right now.

Pittsburg County Commissioners have a burn ban in place, effective until further notice.

And a Pawnee County water association that serves more than a dozen towns and rural water districts said it is in a critical emergency situation and could run out of water soon.

"I have worked here for 30 years and I've never seen [Lone Chimney] lake this low or conditions this serious," Paul Kinder said.

As the operations manager for the Lone Chimney Water Association in Pawnee County, Paul Kinder has a lot on his mind.

Mostly if there's going to be enough water for 16,000 customers -- including those in Glencoe, Morrison, Yale, Terlton, Hallett, Jennings and most Pawnee County rural water customers, stretching all the way from the west end of the county out to the Keystone Lake area.

The cities of Pawnee and Cleveland – the two largest in the area – also use Lone Chimney Lake as a secondary water source. Both cities' primary water sources are low as well.

"We're very worried," Kinder said. "This is a critical situation."

So critical, the Lone Chimney Water Association is asking customers cut back water use dramatically.

"We have eight towns in jeopardy of being out of water which includes also two hospitals and three schools," Kinder said.

The problem is Lone Chimney Lake is 11 feet below normal.

During two years of drought, they've struggled with not having enough water.

The association has asked for precautionary rationing in the past by sending letters and posting notices in local newspapers. They've even hiked rates to discourage high use.

Now, Kinder said, the group is in a "critical rationing" mode.

"Which means we're basically charging all of our customers in all of the entities triple rates for water usage (if they go above a certain level)," Kinder said.

He said the association knows it's asked before, but the low lake level is leaving no other choice but to stress how important it is to conserve.

"(Customers need to) cut back 25 if not 50 percent more than what they're doing right now until we can get the line from Stillwater installed," Kinder said.

The association got a $3 million loan for construction of a 12-inch, 12-mile water line to tie in to Stillwater's water supply.

Construction begins in January, but it won't be finished until summer.

"We need rain in buckets, literally, people to pray for rain, use water wisely and conserve water when possible," Kinder said.

To reinforce the sense of urgency, Kinder said if people don't cut back and it doesn't rain substantially, customers won't have enough water as soon as next month.

News On 6 viewers can watch anchor Craig Day's story at 6 p.m.


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