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Altus works on short and long term solutions to water problem

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ALTUS, Okla._Desperate times in Altus and surrounding towns that depend on the shrinking water supply in the area.

The ongoing threat from the drought inspired the creation of the Southwest Oklahoma Water Supply Action Plan. Friday, the steering committee that hopes to put the plan in action met for the first time. They enlisted input from experts in Oklahoma City on how to get help from the state capitol to make this emergency situation a higher priority for lawmakers.

They collaborated to find solutions to the water issue that all of southwest Oklahoma is facing, not just Altus. They all agreed that after three consecutive years of extreme drought, something must be done to meet their short-term needs while also keeping in mind their long-term needs. One idea discussed was connecting to the pipeline that Chickasha currently uses to get their water from Oklahoma City.

Duane Smith led the meeting where everyone in attendance went over different ideas hoping to make a viable plan, "We are now trying to look at all the former studies that have been done, look at all of those recommendations, prioritize those and develop action items on how we  impalement them."

He said if we are preparing for a long-term drought, we need to be doing everything possible to make sure southwest Oklahoma has a reliable water supply, "We also talked about the Ag community and many of the conservation activities they've done in terms of going to drip irrigation and more efficient irrigation techniques and we talked about what more could be done in those areas."

An effective plan must include everyone who depends on their water supply from the Tom Steed and Lugert, Altus reservoirs. With the limited amount of water storage, Smith believes the addition of a third is not out of the question, "The desire to look at additional reservoir capacity that we might be able to build in southwest Oklahoma to capture peak run off times."

Smith has seen a lot of areas in major need of water, but unlike other places our area hasn't been mitigated with rainfall at all. Smith isn't sure what the cost would be for any of these ideas but they know it will be substantial. It's something that needs to be addressed in order to have a reliable water source and now he's waiting for a plan of action, "Just hearing the discussion today, three years of drought just in irrigated agriculture is over a billion dollars. To a community like Altus and to communities in this area it's absolutely devastating."

The committee hopes to have their action plan completed by the end of the month and to take it to the capitol to present it to lawmakers and hopefully get the funding they need to move forward with their action plan. The Altus Water Resources Board will be meet March 12th to take a closer look at the ideas discussed today.

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