Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

January 24, 2013

Drought may force water restrictions

Public input needed at next city meeting

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — As significant drought relief continues to elude a parched Garvin County, the reality of the situation is forcing leaders in communities like Pauls Valley to consider taking action soon.

Among chief concerns for city council members at Tuesday’s meeting was what to do as the city’s two sources of water via Longmire and Old City Lakes continue to drop to unprecedented lows.

Putting it in proper perspective, City Manager James Frizell was not quite ready to call for water restrictions but said it is time now to start preparing for worst case scenarios by declaring an emergency.

“Right now we’re in very dire straits as far as our water conditions for the city of Pauls Valley,” said Frizell.

“It doesn’t require you taking any action, but it does help though and if any federal money comes along it will allow us to tap those funds if we have an emergency declaration already in place.”

It was earlier this month when Frizell was quoted in a Democrat article that if significant rainfall did not come by planting season in March, there would likely be mandatory water rationing measures put in place and at Tuesday’s meeting, sentiment held that it could happen sometime in February.

He noted that things are at such a level that not only could water restrictions place a hold on all outdoor watering, but that impacts could reach as far as requiring businesses along the lines of car washes to not operate in order to conserve the resource.

While Vice Mayor Billy Riddle was not ready to call for restrictions at the business level, he did at one point say he would be in favor of starting some restrictions now like no watering lawns.

Frizell’s response was that it would be a better idea to do across the board restrictions once in place in order to make the most impact on conservation.

Frizell confirmed other concerns from the council that if the drought goes on long enough without relief soon it could also end up delaying the opening of the outdoor swimming pool facility next to the Reynolds Recreation Center.

Originally intended to open this summer, he added it wouldn’t make sense to operate the new aquatics center if all other areas have to cut back.

“If we don’t get any substantial rain between now and March we’re going to have to shut any kind of watering down other than what’s necessary,” said Frizell.

“We’ve got to start preparing for what can happen between now and March and April.”

If restrictions are made mandatory, city attorney Jay Carlton noted that it would likely need to be passed as an ordinance, even if on a temporary level and Frizell said they would research whether current ordinances have something already in place they could use. This is necessary since a fine of some kind could be added to ensure penalties can be enforced.

A restriction could even impact communities outside Pauls Valley that purchase water from here like Elmore City, according to Frizell. Fines in that case would be placed on the rural water district instead of individuals.

“In doing that we’re not going to go out and start writing a bunch of tickets anyway,” said Frizell.

“We’d give people a chance to acclimate, but at the same time we’d need them to understand we are in dire straits.”

Some of the solutions brought up if the drought continues for a third year could be drilling wells, building a pipeline from the Washita River to one of the lakes and purchasing water from other communities. For some of these options the city would have to apply for permits and meet regulations through government bodies like the Department of Environmental Quality.

In the end, the council unanimously approved the emergency declaration, but took no action on restrictions.

The public is invited to the next regular city council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. where measures will be discussed further or possibly voted on and where they can provide their own input.

“We don’t want to do it, it hurts us financially,” said Frizell, who was joined by Mayor Tim Gamble in saying all possibilities will have to be considered to even keep water levels where they are now.

“But we have no choice… at some point we’re going to have to put measures in to make the water last as long as we can.”