Speakers address state of local water

Tribune News Service

Tribune News Service

Vicky Smith
Copy Editor
@pinkwritinglady

The Cameron School of Business presented “Sustainability of Water Resources in Southwest Oklahoma: Past – Present – Future” at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13 in the CETES Conference Center.

In conjunction with Cameron’s academic festival, “Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities,” the event’s purpose was to provide students and community members with the facts of water usage and importance of water conservation in southwest Oklahoma.

Barry Duren, chief financial officer at L.E. Jones Operating Inc. in Duncan, served as moderator of the event. The four speakers were Afsaneh Jabbar, J.D. Strong, Will Archer and David Taylor. One scheduled speaker, Tom Buchanan, manager of the Lugert Altus Irrigation District, was unable to attend.

Jabbar, assistant director of the City of Lawton Public Works, said people must adhere to the water conservation policy.

“[On] Sept. 1,” Jabbar said, “our water conservation stage three went into effect, which we allow only two days per week of outside water use.”

Jabbar offered ways for people to improve water conservation, such as increasing the cost of water, using ground water and renewing water.

She said the price of water is cheap right now, selling at “$3.00-$3.50 per 1000 gallons.”

Although ground water has not been used in Lawton in recent years, Jabbar said, “We do have Arbuckle-Timbered Hill Bedrock water that is there and ready to be used.”

Jabbar said renewed water, which she defined as “treating the effluent and putting it back in use,” “could be used for industrial purposes… for irrigation, or it could be used for potable water.”

Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, said there is ample water stored in reservoirs across the state that exceed annual consumption.

“There’s enough water in storage just in the Ogallala [Aquifer] and Oklahoma to cover the entire state two feet deep in water,” he said, “but we also know it’s not ever an average year in Oklahoma.”

Strong said before costly water resources are utilized, simple conservation procedures should be taken.

“The most cost effective and the cheapest,” Strong said, “the easiest solutions to implement first, are water conservation, efficiency, reuse, recycling, repurposing your water – to take maximum advantage of the water you do have available to you.”

Will Archer, the district manager of Mountain Park Master Conservancy, said the capacity of Tom Steed Reservoir in Altus has decreased from 90 percent to 24 percent since 2011.

“These are our assumptions,” Archer said. “If we took future inflow and precipitation based on 50 percent worse, the worst 12 months, and we figured that in, our reservoir would be depleted by 2016 – the fall of 2016.”

In response to the drought, Archer said they created the Southwest Action Plan, which consists of near-term, mid-term and long-term goals to improve water supply reliability.

Taylor, the manager of Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District, said 1980 through 2010 was the wettest period recorded in Oklahoma history, and the drought started around August and September of 2010.

“If you look at the ratio of rainfall to runoff,” Taylor said, “it’s steadily gotten worse. Why is that? Think of watershed like a big sponge. If that watershed has several years of dryness, it takes a lot of rain to fill that watershed up before it actually starts to runoff – that’s what happened to us.”

Although plans are being implemented to sustain the wellbeing of Waurika Lake, Taylor said the lake has enough usable water to last until March 2016.

After all four presentations, the panel opened the floor for questions from the audience.

In closing the questions, Moderator Duren asked the panel: “If you were to say, projecting to the future 30 years from now, what would be the ideal situation for the water plan for Oklahoma, and what would that look like?”

“It is ground water – surface water,” Strong said. “Primarily, our overarching goal, 30 years from now, [is that] we’re not talking about anybody running out of water in a year in a half and having to rely on rain to make that not happen. Instead, we have no concern, no matter how dry it gets … because we’ve shored up our water supply.”

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