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Water levels to lift Lawton water restrictions

LAWTON, Okla._After months of hovering just above the need to limit outdoor watering in Lawton to one day a week by implementing Stage 4 restrictions, there's been an amazing reversal.

Lawton's water supply has rapidly risen to Stage 1 restriction levels, which only asks for voluntary conservation.

The city had been under Stage 3 restrictions since September of 2014, when the combined water supply fell beneath 50 percent, and dropped dangerously close to 40 percent.

However, in the last two weeks, Southwest Oklahoma has seen record amounts of rainfall, which generated mass amounts of runoff into the three lakes that provide water to Lawton. Collectively- Waurika Lake, Lake Ellsworth and Lake Lawtonka- now sit just above 60 percent combined capacity.

We asked about the possibility of the city opting to go into stage two for extended conservation purposes, despite the water levels being at stage one, but were told the policy says Stage 1 water restriction is set to be enacted when the water supply drops below 70 percent, Stage 2 at 60 percent, Stage 3 at 50 percent and Stage 4 when the water supply is less than 40 percent.

Pending the mayor's approval, Lawton will go into Stage 1 water restriction, but citizens are still encouraged to conserve.

"Even in the voluntary stage, the hope is that the citizens would still try and conserve as much as they can," Assistant City Manager Jerry Ihler said.

Ihler says the hot, summer months are just ahead, so it's not fair to say the drought is over just yet.

"Last year we lost about 20, 19 percent  of our overall water supply during 2014, so we could be back in the same conditions next year," Ihler said.

So, the city will continue to actively search for alternative water resources.

"We have a couple of good years and then we go back to a dry year, so it is prudent that we continue without plans, the implementation of alternative water supply so we will be prepared the next time that it comes, and I'm not sure that this is the end of this time," Afsaneh Jabbar of Public Works said.

Ihler said the National Weather Service will release its verdict on the drought situation in southwest Oklahoma on Thursday. He agreed with Jabbar, saying the city has to continue the search for alternate water sources in order to build a rainy day fund, for the lack there of.

The city said in addition to the alternative water sources, they are also looking into ways to retain any overflow water from Lake Lawtonka, so it isn't released from the water supply completely.

Some ideas were to install reverse pumping systems, or a dig a trench that would feed into East Cache Creek and funnel the water back into Waurika Lake.

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