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Water projects top 2016 CIP proposal

LAWTON, Okla._Regardless of the May rains, City of Lawton officials are asking voters to join them in the hunt for alternative water resources.

They will get that chance next Tuesday, August 11th. On the ballot for Lawton residents is the 2016 CIP proposal, which will provide funding for alternative water resources, such as reuse water and ground water wells. 

If passed, it would bring the current CIP to an early end on December 31. This new 2016 CIP would take effect January 1, 2016, and run until 2025.

The best offense is a good defense, so it boils down to being proactive about the future. City officials say honing in on drought resistant water sources now will hopefully put the city ahead of the next dry spell.

On average, the city uses 18 million gallons of water each day, which is drawn from Lake Lawtonka, Ellsworth and Waurika. So, in order to diversify its water portfolio, the city is looking to add ground water wells and are hoping to get test wells drilled as soon as possible.

"We have to determine with the ground water, the quality of that water, to what extent   it need to be treated, the  quantity we would be able to yield from the wells," City Manager Jerry Ihler said.

Ihler estimates the projects would create an additional 10 million gallons per day, and said it would cost a total of $1 million to drill 10 test wells.

The wells that yield at least a million gallons of quality water per day would be turned into production wells.

"To convert a test well into a production well, is probably about somewhere in the neighborhood of about $1 million per well,” Ihler said.

As for other options with preserving groundwater:

"Maybe storage of water in other locations. Maybe when we have the lakes full, when they over flow, storing it somewhere where we can then pump it back into the lakes as they come down," Councilman Doug Wells said.

It's estimated the 2016 CIP will accrue about $130 million over the next ten years, $60 million of which would be designated to alternative water sources.

But what if the vote fails? Ihler said there is another option, but it's not much better than what is on the ballot for Tuesday.

"An alternative would be going to the vote of the people for ad valorem property taxes," Ihler said.

"We'll complete the 2012 projects which will be a viable program, but we will have absolutely no money to do anything else," Wells said.

Councilman Doug Wells said whether money is allocated now with the 2016 CIP or the voters choose to wait until 2019, the cost of the water projects will be the same.

"It allows us to plan ahead and get things started and in place, so if we have another drought, we're taken care of," Wells said.

Another option the city is looking into is reuse water, but that is several years out because it is a much more invasive and expensive project; costing upwards of $100 million.

It is also important to note that this is not an increase in sales tax, but a continuation of the current program through 2025.

This proposal also includes money for new projects, including $15 million to bring a sewer disposal project up to EPA standards. There is also $3.5 million to purchase seven new LATS buses. Lawton voters head to the polls on August 11.

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