A few weeks ago the local social media pages were full of comments and questions about Lawton's city water suddenly becoming smelly... but it seemed to only affect half of the city.

During the last two weeks of January, it was quite the topic of conversation online. Dozens of citizens complained about the smell while others mentioned they hadn't noticed it at all. Some said it smelled like the lake, others claimed it to be fishy, and some swore it was closer to that pungent sewer smell.

Even more curious was where the people lived. The smelly water shenanigans seemed to only be affecting Lawtonians living west of Sheridan Road, though that opinion dissolved the further southwest people lived... we can probably chalk that up to desensitized sense of smell from living in a cloud of H2S from the paper mill out that way... but it was hard to not notice after reading the comments online.

I figured I'd reach out to the city to see what they had to say about it, after all, there are tons of things that could make municipal water suddenly start smelling.

"Howdy (CoL contact),  I'm sure y'all have seen the mega-thread on grapevine talking about the pungent/lake smell of Lawton water lately. Thought I'd reach out for a comment and/or any information the city would like to pass on to the public."

That was the email I sent out to four different people in city hall on February 1... Three full weeks later and the city is still silent on the matter, as is the public because the water apparently stopped smelling since then.

While it's understandable Lawton would remain silent on what turned out to be a temporary issue with the municipal water supply, it leaves us all turning to the internet for possible answers. If you've ever used WebMD to search your symptoms, the internet always returns the worst-case-scenario answers.

The internet didn't disappoint.


One of the most common causes of smelly municipal water is algae blooms. If you've ever spent time fishing from the bank in the middle of summer, you know the musty, earthy smell we're talking about here... but how does that happen in January?

Fun fact... algae can bloom even in the coldest temperatures if the conditions are right. If you remember that hellacious winter storm we had in December that whipped up the waves on Lake Lawtonka, perhaps this was just what algae needed to kickstart a bloom.


The other super-common cause of musty, earthy-smelling water is bacteria, and there are a million ways it could get into the water supply.

When we discussed the higher-than-promised water bill hike a few weeks ago with Lawton Financial Director Joe Dunham, he talks about the issues the water treatment facility has incurred over the last year. Inflation didn't stop at eggs and fuel, it affected the chemical prices the city uses to sanitize our water supply too.

Could the smelly water have been an experiment to see how little of those expensive chemicals could have been used to stretch their thin budget?

Too much treatment?

Oddly enough, the musty lake smell of Lawton's water could have been a result of using too much of the same sanitizing chemicals that could produce excess chloramines.

Due to the smelly water only affecting the west side of town, shenanigans in the water treatment seem doubtful. If it happened upstream, it would be noticeable all across town... but when the government stays silent on real issues, it leaves ample room for wild speculation and distrust to grow among the citizens.

What else could it be?

Every outlet online points to the smell being caused by bacteria, and since it was only smelly on the western half of Lawton, it was logically due to broken pipes.

Pipes break and dirt/bacteria get in. Broken pipes are a major concern why you should rethink drinking Lawton's tap water, even if only for your pet's sake...

You can't find a single neighborhood within city limits with dry streets. Lawton's water main problems are famous. The city council blames our firefighters for the constant main breaks but nobody talks about how old this system is. Old stuff has a habit of breaking, that's not the taboo of the subject... it's the countless revolving door of people that vow to fix it in order to win elections, then conveniently spend our taxes elsewhere.

That's not a new trend in Lawton politicians... that trend dates back decades, and until the generation of corrupt individuals finally dies off, we'll likely live under that thumb for a while.

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