Oklahoma Water Resources Board the Water Agency

Divisions & Programs

J.D. Strong, Executive Director

J.D. Strong was named Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in October 2010. He previously served as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Environment, where he coordinated activities of the Environmental Cabinet, including the Department of Environmental Quality, Water Resources Board, and Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Under Strong's leadership, the OWRB updated the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, a 50-year water supply assessment and policy strategy to meet Oklahoma's future water needs. Strong oversees administration of Oklahoma’s AAA-rated $3 billion Financial Assistance Program, which assists more than two-thirds of Oklahoma communities and rural water districts in financing water infrastructure projects. Other significant programs under Strong’s direction include the administration of approximately 13,000 water rights permits allocating 6 million acre-feet of water and programs focused on hydrologic studies, licensure of water well drillers, floodplain management, dam safety, and a water quality management, which includes establishment of Oklahoma's water quality standards and statewide monitoring of lakes, streams, and groundwater.

Strong represents Oklahoma on the Western States Water Council and serves as Secretary-Treasurer. Strong serves as Oklahoma’s Commissioner on four Congressionally-approved interstate water Compact Commissions.

A fifth generation Oklahoman, Strong grew up in Weatherford and earned a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University. While finishing his degree at OSU, Strong began his career at the OWRB working as an environmental specialist.

Legal Services

Rob Singletary, General Counsel

The OWRB legal team provides counsel to the board, executive director, and agency staff on legal matters.

Administrative Services

Cleve Pierce, Division Chief

OWRB Administration provides support to the agency through Public Information, Financial Management, and Human Resources.

Public Information

Public Information staff respond to information requests from the public and State Legislature; promote and support agency programs by developing various publications, such as the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan update and the agency’s quarterly newsletter; coordinate the annual Governor's Water Conference and numerous other agency activities and events; and develop and maintain the agency's website.

Financial Management

Financial Management staff are responsible for the agency’s accounting, inventory, payroll, purchasing, and budget preparations.

Human Resources

The Human Resources office coordinates employee recruitment, training, benefits, and other personnel-related services and special projects for the agency.

Financial Assistance Division

Joe Freeman, Division Chief

In answer to the growing need for infrastructure improvements in Oklahoma, the Board's Financial Assistance Division administers a successful, long-standing loan and emergency grant program to fund the construction or rehabilitation of community water and wastewater projects. This program is backed by the Statewide Water Development Revolving Fund, capitalized by the State Legislature in 1979. The Revolving Fund is the key reason why the Board's loan programs can offer such extremely competitive interest rates and convenient payback terms.

The Division also directs two separate loan programs that provide federal Clean Water Act and Drinking Water Act funds for community wastewater and water treatment/distribution projects, respectively. A fifth funding strategy, the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grant program, is specifically geared to the water/sewer project needs of Oklahoma's small towns.

Applicants eligible for water/wastewater project financial assistance vary according to the specific program's purpose and requirements, but include towns and other municipalities with proper legal authority, various districts established under Title 82 of Oklahoma Statutes (rural water, master/water conservancy, rural sewage and irrigation districts), counties, public works authorities and/or school districts. Special programs are available for small and/or impoverished communities. Applications for agency financial assistance programs are evaluated individually by agency staff. Those meeting specific program requirements are recommended by staff for approval at monthly meetings of the nine-member Water Board.

Planning & Management Division

Julie Cunningham, Division Chief

The Planning and Management Division administers permitting programs for use of the state's surface waters and groundwaters and cooperates with various agencies and organizations in technical studies to determine the amount of water available in Oklahoma's stream and groundwater basins.

To ensure the fair apportionment and future conservation of Oklahoma's abundant water resources, the OWRB directs separate, though closely related, programs that provide critical information on existing surface and groundwater supplies. This multi-faceted monitoring network also provides real-time data to enhance and complement Oklahoma's existing flood forecasting and warning capabilities; guides operation of state lakes and reservoirs; contributes vital information to the state's drought monitoring and response efforts; and facilitates agreement in interstate stream compacts.

To help ensure that future water supplies are available and used wisely, Planning and Management participates in various planning activities, including maintenance of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan and promotion of its associated recommendations.

Water Use Permitting

Appropriation of stream and groundwaters in Oklahoma, overseen by the OWRB's Permitting Section, is the foundation of the state’s water management activities. Each year, permitting staff help fulfill the individual water needs of Oklahomans through the processing of hundreds of water use permit applications, which are considered for approval by the nine-member Water Board or Executive Director (in the case of 90-day provisional temporary and “limited quantity” permits). Staff administer and maintain approximately 12,000 stream and groundwater use permits on file at the agency and provide annual reports of water use.

Technical Studies

As demands for state waters approach supplies available in individual stream systems and groundwater basins, it becomes increasingly important to accurately determine amounts of water available for appropriation to current and future users. Fulfilling this requirement, staff of the Board's Technical Section routinely conduct and update studies of the state's 49 stream systems and 71 groundwater basins. Results from studies of these defined hydrologic units dictate the amounts of water that may be reasonably withdrawn while generally reserving supplies for future use. Technical staff also cooperate on a variety of water resource studies and monitoring programs in cooperation with federal and other state agencies, organizations and local governments. The section also licenses pump installers and drillers of water, geothermal, observation and monitoring wells in Oklahoma.


The OWRB is the state agency specifically authorized to plan for and encourage the use of water resources in a manner that will best serve the many needs of the people of Oklahoma. This is currently being accomplished through implementation of Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan recommendations. The agency routinely participates in cooperative planning studies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Geological Survey.

Hazard Mitigation

The Planning Section also coordinates state floodplain management and flood hazard mitigation activities, administers a state dam safety program, and coordinates the well driller and pump installer licensing program.

Water Quality Programs Division

Derek Smithee, Division Chief

The Water Quality Division develops and maintains Oklahoma's Water Quality Standards and routinely collects physical, chemical and biological data to support the document. The Division directs Oklahoma's Beneficial Use Monitoring Program (BUMP) to document beneficial use impairments, identify impairment sources (if possible) detect water quality trends, provide needed information for the Water Quality Standards and facilitate the prioritization of pollution control activities.

As part of its three-tiered Clean Lakes Program, the Division conducts water quality assessments to determine the relative health of state lakes and the problems impairing them, and implements diagnostic and feasibility studies which seek to restore the recreational benefits of public lakes throughout the state. Water Quality also participates with municipal governments and federal agencies to assess and control various water quality problems impacting Oklahoma waters.

Water Quality Standards

Oklahoma's Water Quality Standards, maintained and updated at least every three years by staff in the Standards Section, serve to enhance the quality of state waters, protect their beneficial uses (assigned activities that a surface water may be reasonably used for), and aid in the prevention, control and abatement of water pollution.

Standards Section staff conduct research to support new and revised criteria considered during the Standards rules revision process or expansion of the document, such as development of groundwater quality standards.

Monitoring & Assessment

Monitoring Section staff direct Oklahoma's Beneficial Use Monitoring Program. BUMP, created in 1998, is the state's first truly comprehensive water quality monitoring effort. Data provided by the program plays an essential role in the state's water quality management decision-making process by helping to identify waters experiencing impairments as well as the cause of declining water quality. The BUMP is also invaluable to the development and refinement of Oklahoma's Water Quality Standards. Beneficial uses, the backbone of the Water Quality Standards, are assigned to individual lakes, streams, and stream segments based upon the primary benefits derived from those waters by the public. Each year, staff publish a report that discloses detailed physical, chemical, and biological information from 155 lakes and streams collected at approximately 600 sites throughout Oklahoma.

Lakes & Special Studies

Staff of the OWRB's Lakes and Special Studies Section seek to evaluate, restore and maintain the recreational benefits of Oklahoma's publicly owned lakes (primarily municipal and major water supply lakes). Funded through a combination of federal, state and local sources, this vital activity consists of two distinct steps: problem identification and restoration.

Data obtained through the OWRB's Beneficial Use Monitoring Program help staff determine the baseline water quality conditions, and subsequent health status, of Oklahoma's significant public lakes. In turn, staff assess the need for intensive investigations on impaired or impacted water bodies and recommend remedial measures, where required.

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Page last updated: August 01, 2016

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