TOWN rations water as system goes dry

Wednesday, July 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PRUE, Okla. (AP) _ The strain of summer on Prue's aging water system brought a ban on outdoor watering Tuesday and lawns likely will be thirsting all summer.

The combination of a jump in water demand, the need for new wells and a bullet hole in one of the town's water tanks left some residents without water Sunday, officials said. The town had low pressure Monday and Tuesday.

``Unless there is something done _ like more supply of water, and that can only come through more wells _ the current ban, in my estimation, would be throughout summer,'' said Billy J. Lay, Prue's water operator.

The town of about 400 is under a consent order from the state to drill new wells. It has had water pressure problems for a couple of years.

``If you have a system like theirs that's starting to fail, it only takes a few days of (heightened) demand for the system to run down completely,'' said Michael Dean, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality.

A DEQ engineer examined the system and recommended immediate water rationing, Dean said.

Lay said about a quarter of Prue went without water on Sunday. Some residents also were temporarily left without water Monday after a water line was shut off for repairs.

The problems are complicated by the loss of one of the town's tanks. A vandal shot a hole in the tank last December, prompting Lay to shut it down because of contamination concerns.

It has yet to be fixed because the town was considering buying a bigger tank instead, he said.

Prue has the money to drill two new wells, but Lay said the drilling has been stymied by a state requirement that the town have 30 to 40 acres of land from which to pull water. No landowners have been willing to lease the land and Lay doesn't expect resolution soon.

That's why he anticipates a watering ban until fall when demand goes down. The town can only supply water for drinking and other household use.

``I see a lot of new wading pools around town,'' he said. ``Our system is just not adequate to supply the demand all the time.''