(Photo: Tony Gutierrez / AP)
KANSAS CITY — The worst drought in more than half a century baked more than two thirds of the continental United States this summer and its harsh effects continue to plague the parched cities and towns of the Great Plains.
Ask the 94,000 people of San Angelo, Texas, who are running out of water. Fast.
The city — once known as “the oasis” of dry west Texas — now says it only has enough water supplies to last one more year. On Oct. 16, it will enforce its highest level of emergency measures to save its water supply.
That first-ever “Drought Level III” declaration will ban any watering of lawns, golf courses and gardens, forbid fresh water use for swimming pools and close commercial car washes.
The city will also push up usage fees aiming to cut water use by at least 30 percent as it awaits a new water pipeline now under construction. The pipeline will not be available for use until mid-2013 or later.
Protests from local businesses has prompted the city to consider some exceptions but those may be temporary, officials say.
“We need to get back to meeting just basic needs,” said Will Wilde, water utilities director for San Angelo. “We don’t want to put people out of business. It may come to that if conditions get extreme in the future. Do you want to keep a green lawn or do you want water to drink?”
Despite recent rains, the drought continues to expand, with severe or worse drought affecting 83.80 percent of the High Plains region, up from 82.81 percent the prior week, according to the weekly Drought Monitor on Thursday.
More than half of Texas is having a drought that is rated severe or worse, and more than 95 percent of Oklahoma is rated as experiencing the more serious category of extreme drought.
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