Recent rains not enough to ease Bartlesville's water woes

Wednesday, April 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ Despite recent rainfall, the water shortage continues in Washington County, where Bartlesville remains under mandatory water rationing.

Rains on Friday and early Tuesday helped maintain the water level in Copan Lake, which has been down by 30 percent for a month, Army Corps of Engineers officials said.

Hulah Lake now contains about 24 percent of the water it was designed to hold.

``One of my concerns is we have these little rains and people think the problem is over with,'' Arlyn Hendricks, the manager for Copan and Hulah lakes, said Tuesday. ``It's going to take significant rains to bring Hulah up. The situation is far from being over.''

The area around Copan and Hulah lakes has missed many of the storms that have rumbled through northeastern Oklahoma in April. And as warm weather arrives, officials face a new concern at the lakes.

``Pretty soon we will start losing tremendous amounts of water to evaporation,'' Hendricks said.

Washington County commissioners declared a state emergency in the county on Monday, a move necessary so the area can obtain state and federal drought assistance.

Drought conditions have created ``a severe water shortage, thus creating an imminent threat to public health, welfare and economic conditions resulting in considerable damage to public and private properties,'' the commissioners' proclamation said.

Despite mandatory water rationing, but some Bartlesville citizens are trying to persuade city leaders to fill the town's two municipal swimming pools.

That would take 1.2 million gallons of water initially and more water would be needed to maintain them through the summer, Bartlesville Mayor Ted Lockin said.

The city could ``relent'' on its water rationing policy to fill the pools if the lake levels rise, but putting water into the pools now is not an option, he said.

``The corps has granted us a reprieve with a supply of water for health and safety issues, but I don't think we can say that includes filling swimming pools,'' Lockin said. ``We can't just get the water and have everyone in town opening up their taps.

``We have to be very cautious.''

Meanwhile, Lockin signed a letter Tuesday accepting a Corps of Engineers' offer to provide 5 million gallons of emergency water supplies daily from Copan Lake for the next 90 days.

The city already had rights to water from the lake, but the rates made contracting for it impractical, city officials said. Under the new agreement, the city can access Copan at the same rate it was paying for water from Hulah Lake, another corps reservoir that is 81 percent below its normal level.