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Bartlesville lifts water restrictions as rain boosts lake levels

Bartlesville started opening its splash pads — including this one at Unity Square — on Monday.
City of Bartlesville
Bartlesville started opening its splash pads — including this one at Unity Square — on Monday.

Northeastern Oklahoma is starting to see some benefits from recent rains as Bartlesville’s water supply bounces back from drought.

Bartlesville draws its water from three lakes — Hudson, Hulah and Copan. The latter is still at about half its capacity, but Hulah Lake rose four feet over the weekend, and Hudson is more than a foot over its normal levels. That’s largely due to recent rains in northeastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas.

That’s a different story than in April, when the city’s overall water supply dipped to 57%. That triggered outdoor watering restrictions and a city-council approved rate increase for households with heavy water use. When summer arrived, Bartlesville’s pools stayed closed.

Now, with the water supply at 71%, the city is lifting those outdoor watering restrictions and ending the utility rate increase. Bartlesville won’t open its pools due to late-season staffing challenges. But splash pads started opening on Monday, and the city is offering free bus rides to the pool at Osage Hills State Park, about 15 miles out of town.

The city followed guidelines from its Water Shortage Ordinance, which lays out conservation actions according to how full their overall water supply is.

“The Water Shortage Ordinance did what it was intended to do, and that is to help preserve our remaining water supply until a significant rain event or the addition of a potable water source,” City Manager Mike Bailey said in a news release. “We will continue to seek additional resources for water so that we can be even better prepared should this situation arise again in the future.”

The water supply is still well below 80%, so the Water Shortage Ordinance still calls for a public awareness campaign. The city said in an email it strongly encourages continued conservation.

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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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