Jabbar: Rain comes at perfect time

Vicky Smith
Assistant Managing Editor
@pinkwritinglady

Courtesy of Afsaneh Jabbar

Courtesy of Afsaneh Jabbar

On May 11, 2015, City of Lawton Mayor Fred Fitch signed a proclamation declaring that Stage 1 – Voluntary Restriction of Outside Water Usage shall no longer be in effect until further notice.
The proclamation states the water restriction existed to “protect public health, safety and welfare” due to a water emergency, evident by the low percentage of combined usable storage of Lakes Lawtonka, Ellsworth and Waurika.
Prior to the summer’s rainfall, according to The Washington Post on June 8,
“In fall 2011, nearly 80 percent of Oklahoma and Texas were in exceptional drought — the most severe category on the drought scale.”
City of Lawton Director of Water and Water Waste Afsaneh Jabbar said the rainfall came to Lawton at the perfect time because the city was just days away from taking drastic restriction measures.
“If we had taken the additional measures,” Jabbar said, “businesses would have been affected. We would have gone to one day per week watering and eventually to no watering at all, which would have affected the statics of the community… A society that cannot bring in more businesses because it cannot rely on the water will suffer.”
According to Jabbar, further water restrictions would have specifically affected the physical landscapes of businesses, as well nurseries and car washes, which depend heavily on water.
“I’m sure businesses are resilient,” she said, “and they come up with different strategies. If you cannot have lawn, then you go to a different kind of landscaping methods… But lifestyle would have had to change.”
She said even though the city did not have to implement a restriction of no outside water usage, the lack of rain still affected people within the community.
“Whenever we don’t have any rain,” she said, “then that affects our budget, and when budget is affected, the whole area of things get affected. There won’t be funding to do streets [or] parks, so we will have to lay off employees or not hire employees.”
Jabbar said the drought also affected the treatment of water.
“The City of Lawton has two lakes [Lawtonka and Ellsworth] and has storage in another one, Waurika.
We don’t own Waurika, but we have 60 percent storage of Waurika water to be transferred to us and used.
“Our water quality was greatly affected by the drought. Treatment was a little bit more difficult than it normally is, so we were spending more money on some of the chemicals that we had to use to treat water.”
Although no water restrictions are currently in place, Jabbar said people still hold a mentality of water conservation.
“People have got used to not using water as much as they used in the past,” she said, “so on the average, about one to two million gallons a day we use less water than we did in previous years.”
Jabbar said the effects of conservation are both negative and positive.
“Conservation is always good because resources are limited,” she said, “and if you don’t conserve, it gets to a point that you deplete the resources…but there is a budget shortfall as a result.
“The shortfall affects the service that we provide to the public.”
She said the city will soon undergo projects to repair damage caused by flooding.
“We had floating trees on the lakes that damaged two of our gates in Lawtonka…In Lake Ellsworth, when the water was released, it damaged the spillway, which basically has washed away some of the gravel.
“Those are the projects that we are trying to fund, and as soon as we get funding, they will be underway.”
Jabbar said the city is also undergoing preparations for a future drought.
“I have gone back and looked at the number of droughts that we have had,” she said. “It is a cycle that will happen again….That’s why we are spending the funds to have additional water resources available.”
Like many people, Jabbar is glad the rain came to the Lawton area.
“A situation that was not too bright has become bright again,” she said.
For more information about the City of Lawton Public Works Department’s current projects and future plans, call 580-581-3410 or visit cityof.lawton.ok.us.

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