Q&A with Robert Glennon

Photo by Kaley Patterson

Photo by Kaley Patterson

Based on your experience, could you provide an overview of what we’re seeing in the country right now in this fight for water?

People are moving from where the water is to where the water isn’t. That’s sort of the big picture. That said, we’ve done a great job over the last five years of reducing water use. The USGS just recently released a report showing a decrease in water use. It’s not that we suddenly got religion. It’s that more and more homes have low-flow toilets and low-flow shower heads and washing machines that are front loaded and use a fraction of the water they used to.

On the commercial and industrial side, the energy production side, power plants are being driven by the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to use way less water than they used to use. So they’ve cut way back.

The steel industry has cut more than 90 percent the amount of water they used to use in its production. If you were to look at food producers like Nestle [and] automobile producers like Ford, you’re finding that they all have sustainability movements, and they all have taken steps toward reducing their water demand. So that’s all great. But the other side of the equation is that this is our water supply.

The hydrological cycle teaches us that we can neither make more water nor destroy water. All the water there is, is. We have used water in a way that is simply unsustainable. The water there is, isn’t sufficient because we’re using it in ways that are unsustainable. So water isn’t where we need it when we need it in the form that we need it.

Where do you see the condition of the water supply in five or ten years, and what can we as a nation do to improve it?

I think there’s a lot of progress. Some places are still clueless. … Drought makes you aware, and you panic; but when the first soaking rain [comes], it’s back to business as usual. Other places have wide eyes and they understand that there is no going back. California is part of that.

I see progress in some areas, I see backsliding in other areas. Gradually, what I’m seeing is more and more citizen awareness of their water supply, and that’s a terrific thing.

Here, in this part of the state, we’re in stage three restrictions. Two things that are coming up are studies that start looking into groundwater and reused water. Are these two things that you recommend?

Right now, my understanding – and I’m not an Oklahoma water lawyer – is that you basically [have] an “open sesame” on your water supply. Anyone who wants can control a well. That’s madness. That’s not law – that’s the antithesis of law.

So Oklahoma needs to put limits on new wells. What you’ll see, very quickly, is that supply is going to go down. You’re going to find groundwater of lower quality. You’re going to find land subsidence. You’re going to find higher pumping costs. You’re going to find domestic wells drying up. There are a lot of social and economic consequences associated with not having sensible restrictions on ground water.

Reused water – I’m a huge fan of that. It’s expensive…but it’s right there. I don’t know [price], but my guess would be that it would be a lot cheaper.

The Q&A occurred during the 20-minute press conference at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 in the Buddy Green Room. The press, which included KSWO Channel 7, The Cameron Collegian and The Lawton Constitution, took the floor to ask these questions to Robert Glennon.

For more on Water sustainability, see “Combating the water crisis: Time for action” or click here


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