Beyond the Tap: Preparing for water ‘booms and busts’

Published 10 years ago -

[This is the third in a series of articles by Asia Scudder on local and global water issues. See part one and part two.]

by Asia Scudder

On January 21 the City of Norman hosted the second in a series of water related forums. Kyle Arthur of the Oklahoma Water Resource Board spoke about how Oklahoma has gone through “boom and bust” periods of water availability since the mid-1800’s.

Arthur stressed the importance of being prepared for each, stating additionally that Oklahoma has experienced generally high precipitation since the 70s. He noted that only 27 communities in Oklahoma have a drought plan in place.

Norman does have a drought contingency plan containing three stages, which can be implemented depending on the severity of the drought. In the first stage, the city reduces its water use and citizens are encouraged to take voluntary water conservation measures. In stage two, all non-essential city water use is ended, washing a car or other vehicle is prohibited except at commercial car washes, and odd/even irrigation limits are put in place, among other restrictions. In stage three, landscape watering is limited to one day per week, with watering allowed only on the day that garbage is collected.

Bryan Mitchell, an engineer who is consulting on the state water plan, discussed the unpredictability of water availability throughout the state – as usage levels change, precipitation levels dip or increase, temperature increases, groundwater storage changes etc.

Norman recently received a $9.1 million wastewater treatment loan through the Water Resource Board. Eighty percent of the loan will be spent on new equipment and repairs to the City’s water treatment plant, while 20 percent is to be used for green projects. An oxygen enriching treatment will be implemented to improve water quality at Lake Thunderbird, as this reservoir typically experiences low oxygen levels, high turbidity, and algal growth.

Federal stimulus funding has provided $23.1 million dollars to Norman for water capital projects. These include the addition of 19 new wells. Currently three of the new wells are completed, six are near completion, and ten are under construction. Supply is also being increased by installation of new larger diameter water mains and replacement of all large water meters.

The next forum will be held on February 4 in the City Council Chambers, 201 W. Gray Street, on the he topic, “Other Water Supply Options.” More information on the water forum series can be found at

A town hall meeting will also be held in late May at the Postal Training Center, 2701 E Imhoff Rd.

Asia Scudder is the owner of Zahori Landscapes.

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