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Oklahoma City water rates trickle down to nearby communities

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A decision by the Oklahoma City Council to increase customer water rates is trickling down to 13 surrounding communities that buy water from the city.

The council voted last week to raise customer water rates by 3.75 percent each year through 2009. Those communities that buy all or some of their water from Oklahoma City also will have to pay the higher rates.

Warr Acres and The Village get all their water from Oklahoma City, and Warr Acres Mayor Marietta Tardibono said she doesn't know what to tell residents when they call to complain about their water bills going up.

``We are at the mercy of Oklahoma City,'' Tardibono said. ``It's very sad for us to have to tell the citizens when they call that it's out of our hands. The founding fathers made that decision many years ago.''

Mustang gets a minimum of 200,000 gallons a day from Oklahoma City, but as the water gets more expensive, City Manager David Cockrell said it becomes more cost-effective for cities like Mustang to find other water sources.

He said officials in Canadian County communities are thinking about pooling their money for a regional water treatment plant.

Oklahoma City leaders began securing the city's large water supplies because they understood how important water would be to the continued growth of the city, said Ward 4 Councilman Pete White, who also is the city's water trust chairman.

``If you look at a city as a body, water is the blood,'' White said.

Oklahoma City operates three nearby lakes _ Hefner, Overholser and Stanley Draper. The city also has water rights at Canton Reservoir in northwest Oklahoma and at two lakes in the southeast part of the state, McGee Creek and Atoka.

Water can be released from Canton, flowing down the North Canadian River to Overholser and Hefner. A pipeline completed in the early 1960s at a cost of $60 million connects McGee Creek and Atoka to Lake Stanley Draper.

If Oklahoma City is to continue to maintain its comfortable water supply, rate hikes are necessary, White said.

``It is as inevitable as an increase in your gas bill or your electric bill or phone bill or anything else,'' he said. ``But we need to fight to keep it as low as we can.''
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