Small Oklahoma Town Hunts For More Water As Cleveland Lake Silts In

  • Logan Layden

Cleveland, Oklahoma — population 3,200 — relies on a small reservoir southwest of the city for its water, despite being located on the banks of the Arkansas River.

And a water crisis is brewing there. But the problem can’t be blamed oncrumbling pipelines, an obsolete treatment plant, or drought — though more rain is needed. The problem is silt. The Cleveland Reservoir is nearly 80 years old.

From Rick Maranon with FOX23 in Tulsa:

“Our problem is the lake is a 50 year lake built back in 1935, and it’s silted in, so it doesn’t hold the capacity that it used to hold,” said Mayor Brian Torres.

…Right now the town is [sic] under voluntary water conservation orders, and Torres said that has reduced the city’s water usage by 10-12 percent.

But that isn’t enough.

As StateImpact reported for our 2013 Troubled Water documentary, lakes have a lifespan, after which they can silt over and die. Lawton’s Lake Waurika is also facing silt issues, along with many Oklahoma lakes built in the early to mid-20th century.

Maranon reports the Cleveland’s city council is looking at groundwater as a potential long-term fix, approving five test wells at Sept. 23 meeting. Using water from the Arkansas River is also a possibility, though all of these ideas permits that can take months to go through the approval process.

One local business owner tells FOX23 she will wait and see what happens before jumping to conclusions.

If we have to cut back, I don’t know what we’ll do,” said Josephine Frank, owner of Josie’s Express restaurant.

… Frank has been buying purified drinking water for her customers at [sic] the local grocery store and doesn’t see taking water service off the menu.