Storms possible this weekend

Lake levels at Altus-Lugert serve as emotional barometer to all of Southwest Oklahoma

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ALTUS, OKLAHOMA -- Tom Buchanan might be as close to water as a man can be without getting soaked.

He is the manager of Oklahoma's only irrigation district.

"This is actually where the big irrigation districts the Bureau of Reclamation built to water the West starts," says Buchanan. "We're the furthest east."

Sometime within the next few days this big ditch and 270 miles of smaller ditches will be full of water, delivering it to nearly 50,000 acres of thirsty cotton.

"There are 330 different land owners in the district, about 46 to 47,000 acres that all irrigate from the same source of water," he says.

The Lugert - Altus Irrigation District was built in the '30's and '40's to supply farmers around here with irrigated water.

The lake levels north of town always fluctuated but nothing like they did starting in 2010.

A long dry spell just about emptied Lake Altus-Lugert completely.

Quartz Mountain State Park officials took some pictures.

So did other photographers.

Farmers didn't get a drop of water for 4 years.

Buchanan says they had to get by with their tears.

"Absolutely," he agrees. "When our lake reached that 8 to 9 percent capacity our depression levels were pretty low too. Our emotions were low and kind of on the floor."

From no water to a full lake took one, very wet spring in 2015.

Rains came again in 2016.

Lake Altus -Lugert is still sending a cascade down its spillway and the cotton crop will get a good drink to thrive in summer heat.

"So this community is back alive and ready to do what we do which is produce some of the best, high quality cotton this part of the world produces."

The town of Altus is humming again.

It's farmers, and just about everyone else in southwest Oklahoma, are happy because of one Oklahoma's prettiest lakes is filled right to the very top.