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WATTS officials may impose rationing because of lost water

WATTS, Okla. (AP) _ Residents here could face water rationing as officials struggle to find a way to make up for 2.9 million gallons of water lost last month by the Watts Public Works Authority, a town trustee said.

Two dairy farms and a small chicken ranch outside of the town are using 50 to 60 percent of the water the city is purchasing from Siloam Springs, Ark., said Jim Robison, one of three recently elected board members.

He said if the situation isn't corrected soon, the Public Works Authority may have to enforce mandatory water conservation. Robison said the other 447 Authority customers shouldn't suffer because the farms use so much water.

``Those farms use more water than 50 percent of the households we serve,'' he said. ''50,000 chickens drink almost 5,000 gallons of water per day. It seems unfair that people who want water for their rental houses in town can't get water.''

The Watts water system reached capacity when 50 customers were added last year, said George Tipton of the Community Resource Group, a nonprofit organization that helps rural communities with grants and financial planning.

Tipton said the Authority has been using more water than the town is allowed in the agreement between Siloam Springs and Watts. Regardless of any restrictions imposed, he said the Authority must honor its current service agreements.

In August, the City of Siloam Springs plans to replace the current three-inch water line running into Watts with a six-inch line, Robison said.

Robison, O.J. Snyder and recently elected Mayor Jerry Howel have been actively seeking changes in the way the town's government is being run. They recently threatened to cut the jobs of the town manager, the acting city clerk, a board member and the town attorney to pay for the lost water.
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