U.S. Water News Online
GLENCOE, Okla. -- A lake that provides water for thousands
of Oklahomans in four counties will cease supplying drinkable water
around Jan. 1 unless the region receives significant rainfall by
then, authorities said.
Lone Chimney Lake is the sole or primary water source for the
towns of Glencoe, Morrison, Yale, Blackburn, Skedee, Maramec and
Terlton in north central Oklahoma. It also supplies 40 percent of the
water used by the larger towns of Cleveland and Pawnee.
But prolonged drought has dropped the lake to the lowest level in
its 21-year history.
"We're in a downright disastrous situation," Glencoe Mayor Jon
The lake level is falling nearly an inch per day, said Paul
Kinder, operations manager for the Lone Chimney Lake Association,
composed of the lake's major water users.
"If you were standing right now where the water's edge is,
normally your toes would be 10 feet under water," he said. Normally
three miles in length, the lake is now half that.
Pawnee County commissioners declared a state of emergency on Nov.
6. The lake association board has raised water rates three times
since January, hoping it would make users more conservation-minded.
With the latest increase, which takes effect Nov. 20, water prices
will have tripled in 10 months.
"We have no way to enforce rationing...So all we can do is charge
them higher rates," Kinder said.
Normally the lake level goes down in the summer but returns when
fall rains recharge the springs that feed it. But this has not been a
Lone Chimney Lake is among three lakes statewide considered
dangerously low, said Brian Vance, spokesman for the Oklahoma Water
Resources Board. The others are Twin Lakes near Shawnee and Wiley
Post Memorial Lake in McClain County, which is Maysville's main water
Only Twin Lakes is big enough to earn a spot on the state map.
Lone Chimney Lake was built to provide potable water, "although
the fishermen will tell you it was built for them," said Kinder, who
has worked there since its construction.
The drought has forced the water association board to deny new
requests for bulk water from the town of Hallett and a Pawnee County
rural water district.
Kinder said his board has looked at short-term and long-term
remedies. The most pressing need, he said, is a floating pump barge,
which would be installed at the lake's deepest point to drain water
until the lake is bone dry.
"We found one channel where it's 40 feet deep," Kinder said. "That
might buy us six more months" until anticipated spring rains arrive.
The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is scheduled to consider the
lake association's request for a $100,000 emergency grant. The state
agency's staff has recommended approval.
Kinder estimated the project's total cost at $150,000, but the
grant application indicates a total of $118,113.
The remaining money would come from the recent rate increases,
Long-range plans include tying into the water line that connects
Stillwater to Kaw Lake. That would require laying 15 miles of 6-inch
Kinder's bosses have applied for state and federal money to offset
the $750,000 cost.
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