Cavett, the Payne County commissioner, drilled two wells on his property near Glencoe. Both were dry.
“Drilling wells is a gamble in this region,” Cavett said. “Even if you hit water, you don’t know if it will be drinkable because the sulfur content can sometimes be very high.”
Oklahoma law allows property owners to drill for water with few restrictions if the water is for household purposes, farm or domestic animals, or irrigation of gardens, orchards or lawns up to three acres. Well drillers must get a state license, and their wells must be built to regulation to prevent contaminants from seeping into groundwater.
An alternative to drilling is to haul water, bought from nearby towns or friends.
Yale cattle rancher Roy Matlock hauled water daily to his cattle for five months last summer with a 275-gallon tank mounted to his truck.
The 17-mile round trip and the fear of losing cattle forced him to sell 15 cows and 30 calves. For now, the remainder of his herd grazes on his acreage on the outskirts of Yale, drinking water from a dwindling pond.
“If this drought continues,” Matlock said, “I’ll be out of the cattle business in two years.”
Conserving at Home
In Yale, some citizens say they are doing their part to conserve water.
Nancy and Don Griffin refused to plant flowers this fall, watched two trees die and water trees and plants from the rainwater barrels. In the house, they only wash large loads of clothes and recycle water when possible. They flush toilets as little as possible.
“Do you want water in the tap or do you want beautiful trees?” Nancy Griffin said. “It’s just the choices we have to make right now.”
Hensley said he refuses to wash his vehicle in town, reuses dishwater and has let his lawn turn brown.