Western Oklahoma Gets Some Drought Relief In the Form of State Grant Money

  • Logan Layden
Lake Tom Steed in 2010

K. Latham / Flickr

Lake Tom Steed during better days in 2010.

Parts of western Oklahoma are going into their fourth year of drought, and for the City of Altus, the prospect of its water sources drying up entirely is a real concern.

As The Altus Times’ Jason Angus reports, at a city council meeting on Tuesday, projected dates for the complete depletion of Lake Tom Steed, one of Altus’ two main water sources, were discussed:

As of Tuesday, Lake Tom Steed was at 29.2 percent capacity according the the Bureau of Reclamation, reported Will Archer, Manager of the Mountain Park Conservancy District. If the inflow of water into the reservoir remains the same as the last three years, depletion of the reservoir will not occur until August of 2021. However, if there are no significant inflow events, then the projected date is November 2016.

However, there was some positive drought news to come out of the meeting. The Oklahoma Emergency Drought Relief Commission — which was established in 2012 along with the EDF Fund —announced the approval of a $575,000 grant to Altus.

The city will use the money to “develop an additional well field and infrastructure necessary to bring groundwater into its system,” according to a news release from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.


U.S. Drought Monitor

In all, the EDRC announced more than $1 million in state-funded grants for drought relief and infrastructure projects in four western Oklahoma communities: Altus, Guymon, Hollis, and Tipton. All of the projects focus on using more groundwater, as the lakes, streams, and rivers above ground struggle to meet growing demand.

The latest update of the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 96 percent of the state is experiencing some level of drought, with southwestern Oklahoma and the panhandle continuing to take the brunt.