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Altus Officials May Restrict Water Use Further

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ALTUS Okla_ The ongoing drought has forced the city of Altus to ration its water even further.

The Tom Steed Reservoir has shrunk below 30%, which triggered an automatic move to Stage Four in the Water Conservation Policy. That gives the city the power to temporarily and briefly cut water service entirely as much as one-fourth of the town. The city is still negotiating with the Round Timbers Ranch as another water source.

You'll remember the city used to pump from both Tom Steed and Round Timbers until 1990. That year, the city started using Tom Steed as their main water source. Now that Tom Steed is so low, the city is considering pumping from Round Timbers again. They're negotiating prices with that land owner, while considering other alternative sources of water.

Residents say they're concerned about right now. Some want even more restrictions on their water to conserve it. The numerous sand bars that pepper Tom Steed Reservoir are an ominous indicator of Altus growing water problems.

Altus resident Matthew Holmes said the image is troubling, especially since he said he believes the habits of some residents may contribute to the problem.

"People's water sprinklers are going off or using car washes," Holmes said. :I know that the business has to run, but if it's a resident of Altus using the car wash, I would have concerns of their knowledge of our water situation. Why would you still use the car wash, if you're aware of our water situation?"

Ward Four Councilman Dwayne Martin said overall, most residents have been following the stage three guidelines that city has been under.

"I know our water usage can approach ten million gallons a day, when we've got a lot of water and there are no conservations in place," Martin said. "I think we're using about four or a little lower than that now."

He said although Steed's water levels automatically trigger a stage four situation, the increased restrictions aren't automatically enforced.

"The mayor now has specific power and authority to do certain things," Martin said. "It's at his discretion. He's said verbally that at this time, he does not plan to do anything. He may change his mind tomorrow or next week. I don't know."

Holmes said he wants the city to enforce more restrictions, so that all Altus residents who need Tom Steed to thrive are on the same page.

"As a resident, it's like being proactive is better than being reactive," Holmes said. "In my personal home, we're making steps which can only help us. What is it going to do for Joe Blow down the street that is not aware?"

7News tried to contact the mayor several times, but he was out and unavailable for comment. Currently, residents are under Stage Three Restrictions, which include only watering lawns once a week and only using a commercial car wash once a week. All watering of sidewalks or filling pools is prohibited.  Again, if the mayor chooses to enforce Stage Four, entire sections of the city would temporarily lose all water service.

Councilman Martin said the council also approved a new budget last month, and that included an increase in utility rates about 3 ½%. He said that money will go towards city improvements.

"Part of the budget includes monies for new water sources," Martin said. "That's a big part of the budget, getting some new police cars."

He said although revenue from the increase will be spread around, for now, officials plan to put the money towards the water problems.

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