Q&A: Emergency rates & other water questions

May 17, 2023

We take on the latest round of water questions in today’s Because You Asked. If you don’t find your question or the information you need here, check previous editions of City Beat at City Beat archives.

No fines for water use

Am I going to be fined if I use more than 2,000 gallons of water a month?

No. No one is going to be cited or fined for using any amount of water. Citations apply only to outdoor water use, not to the volume of water used by each household.

In Stage 3 of the ordinance, the stage we are currently in, emergency water rates apply for households using 2,001 or more gallons of water each month. So you will pay a little more for the water used after the initial 2,000 gallons, but you will not be fined. (For more information about rates, scroll up or down in this newsletter.)

Rates are NOT double

The ordinance says Stage 3 rate increases for people using more than 2,000 gallons a day will be 105 percent of current rate. Does that mean you’re charging us double?

No. It means you’re paying 100 percent of the rate you normally pay plus 5 percent more for the number of gallons you use over 2,000 gallons. Thus, you would be paying 10 percent more for the gallons you use over 10,000 gallons, and so on. Here’s a breakdown on Stage 3 rates:

  • 2,001 gallons to 10,000 gallons – 5 percent increase
  • 10,001 gallons to 25,000 gallons – 10 percent increase
  • 25,001 to 50,000 gallons — 15 percent increase
  • In excess of 50,000 gallons – 20 percent increase

Emergency rates: Why?

Aren’t these emergency rates just like a tax increase? How is making us pay more for water going to help this situation?

It’s nothing like a tax increase. It’s a temporary rate increase intended to motivate water customers to use less water. In fact, higher rates and restrictions have been shown to work when little else has, far better than calls to voluntarily conserve.

Case in point, local water use has declined since restrictions were imposed on outdoor water use and emergency water rates were put into effect in April, even during a time of the year when water use typically escalates. Prior to this, the City strongly encouraged voluntary reduction, which had virtually no affect on consumption.

And for the record, the cost of even Stage 3 rates for the average water user is actually quite minimal — as little as $1 per month more for most customers. Emergency rates are a conservation tool, not a money-making endeavor.


My family/business/organization cannot afford these rate increases. What can we do?

You can apply for a variance by completing the “Contact Us” form on the City’s website, www.cityofbartlesville.org, or call 918.338.4100.

Jumping the gun?

Isn’t this just cyclical? Why are you closing pools and taking extreme measures when our water supply is nowhere near as low as it was in 2001-02?

All things are cyclical. The measures being taken now are an effort to ensure water is available during the down-cycle. The 2001-02 drought was the most serious experienced in this community in modern history, with overall water supply plummeting to less than 17 percent. Restrictions were not imposed until supply met the 20 percent threshold, which was arguably too late.

One of the lessons City staff learned from that experience is that municipal government needs to be more proactive in implementing water restrictions and any other measures likely to preserve the water supply.

Lakes low, river full

You always talk about how full Hulah and Copan lakes are. What about the Caney River?

The City is currently meeting local demand of approximately 4-5 million gallons of water per day, drawing solely from the Caney River. Federal law requires that 10 million gallons per day be released into the river system by the water source, which, for the Caney River, is Hulah and Copan lakes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing about 2 mgd from Hulah and about 8 mgd from Copan, due to their varying levels, 40 percent for Hulah and 54 percent for Copan as of this week. (The City has rights to 6 mgd of that 10 mgd and takes that water from the Caney River through the Caney River Pump Station, which is located in Johnstone Park.) The river is considered full until the lakes are dry enough that water can no longer be released.

Please water pets, livestock

I have livestock. Am I going to be fined if I give them water on a day other than the one day per week allowed?

Please water your livestock (and pets) as often as necessary. The Water Shortage Ordinance is intended to drastically reduce outdoor watering and irrigation, which has been proven to be extremely effective in curbing overall water use. It was never intended to contribute to possible health outcomes or death of livestock, pets or people.

Dish doing

Does doing dishes by hand use less water than a dishwasher?

It depends on how much water your dishwasher uses compared to how much water your dish “washer” uses. Both are too variable to say with any certainty.

No citations

How many citations have been issued for water violations?

None. Several warnings have been issued, which appears to have been effective as no repeat offenders have been noted.

No exceptions for outdoor use

We’re not home on Fridays. Can we water on Thursdays instead? Also, somebody just gave us a tree. We didn’t plant it because we didn’t know it was going to rain. Can we plant it now and go ahead and water it every day?

Sorry, no. The City has no way to monitor these types of exceptions.