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Leaders gather for water summit

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) –The message of how conserving water all the time, not just during a drought, needs to be a top priority for residents of Southwest Oklahoma, was given to managers of city and  rural water districts at a water summit at Cameron University.

Up until May 2015, the entire region was struggling through an intense drought, which brought on some of the strictest water conservation actions ever seen. Experts said that sense of urgency needs to be maintained.

One of the speakers at the event, a climatologist, says there is a 100 percent chance that we will go through another drought. He doesn't know when, but he knows by looking at history...it will happen again.

Dennis Meyers, the chairman of the Comanche County Rural Water District 4, says it is important to have other ways to get water besides just from the lakes.

"You've got to be prepared because we're not in a drought now, that doesn't mean next summer we won't be back into it again," Meyers said.

That was the focus of the summit; being prepared and not putting your eggs all in one basket so to speak. Lawton City Manager Jerry Ihler says residents learned from the last drought, and voted to take a look at alternative water sources.

"We're looking at now, the potential now, at drilling some groundwater wells in the aquifer that is below the Lawton area. We're also looking at reusing water from the waste water treatment plant. So, we want to diversify our water portfolio if you will," Ihler said.

Waurika Lake Master Conservancy district manager Dave Taylor says they've learned a lot over the past few years.

"We were on the tail end of about 30 years of really, really wet times. So, we almost had a culture that felt like it was always going to be wet. We're going to go back to the normal wet dry cycle," Taylor said.

Citizens also need to consider conserving water so a man-made shortage isn't created before Mother Nature acts.

"The cheapest and easiest way to drought-proof our communities across the state of Oklahoma is to use the water that we already have most efficiently, and so everybody use everyday practices, whether they're running their shower longer or the sink longer, over watering their yard, all of those things can be reduced and curtailed and help make sure that we're better drought proofing our communities across the state," said D.J. Strong, Oklahoma Water Resources executive director.

Strong says the time to plan for the next drought is now, so officials can have an idea of what they are going to do because planning during a drought is difficult.

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