OKC’s water needs may hurt small town’s economy

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CANTON, Okla. - Residents in the northwest Oklahoma town of Canton fear their economy is drying up at the lake.

Canton Lake is said to be nine feet below normal levels because of the drought.

Regardless, the city of Oklahoma City desperately needs drinking water and is considering calling for the release of more water from Canton Lake to supply residents in the metro.

Canton's economy relies on tourists who flock to their lake from all over northwest Oklahoma as well as Texas and Kansas.

Those tourists support Canton's local businesses.

But Oklahoma City owns the rights to this water and they're considering taking 30,000 acre feet of lake water, the equivalent of 9.8 billion gallons, to provide drinking water to its residents that would last one year.

That would drop the lake level another seven feet, which officials said could kill all the fish if Oklahoma endures another scorching, dry summer.

"Recreation is very important to the economy of this small community," Kathy Carlson said, the Canton Lake Manager. "That's just going to be impacted because people just won't come when the water is not here."

She said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stores the water and it would take two weeks for any release to reach Lake Hefner.

Debbie Ragan with the OKC Utilities Department said they're encouraging conservation to its residents.

Jeff Converse with the Canton Lake Association said that's not enough.

"There needs to be restrictions on water use during this time," he said.

Converse wants OKC officials to find a way to access more of its water at Lake Hefner.

"The Oklahoma Water Resources Board talks a lot about waste of water," he said. "If you're not conserving water in a drought situation as we have now, you're wasting it."

Jerry Reed fishes at Canton Lake every day.

"I'm sure people down there (in OKC) don't realize what they're doing to this lake and most of them probably don't care," Reed said. "But it hurts."

Ragan said officials will wait to see if Oklahoma gets more rain before deciding whether or not they need Canton's water.

She said they've tried to hold off as long as they could and would regret any negative impact to Canton.

Converse said the Canton Lake Association is meeting with Oklahoma City officials next week to find a compromise.

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