Oklahoma Water Resources Board the Water Agency

From the Director is a column published in the agency's quarterly newsletter, the Oklahoma Water News. The column provides the OWRB Executive Director an opportunity to share his unique viewpoint on pertinent state water issues and discuss various OWRB activities and events.

2nd Quarter, 2016

Yet another session of the Oklahoma Legislature is in the books, and it’s a perfect time to highlight some of the major legislative developments for water resource management and the OWRB. Those legislative highlights include the extension of the agency’s use of Gross Production Tax (GPT) proceeds for critical water planning and monitoring, approval of three OWRB Rule updates related to water quality and financial assistance, approval of legislation to foster aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) efforts in Oklahoma, and a resolution to the Federal government to reform water wasting requirements within its crop insurance program.

Despite this progress, most of the legislative session focused on keeping state programs afloat in the face of significant revenue failure. Similar to many other agencies, the OWRB experienced both a reduction in our FY 2016 funding, as well as two additional mid-year reductions, resulting in about 12% less funding than we had to work with in FY 2015. Additional budget cuts for FY 2017 will add another 5% to that deficit, making it extremely challenging to maintain our mission to ensure reliable water supplies for Oklahomans facing the droughts to come. Despite this unfortunate reality, each of our agency’s divisions have done an admirable job reallocating both staff and resources to make certain that we are accomplishing the OWRB’s core missions and critical priorities found in the 2012 Update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP).

Fortunately, with passage of HB 2623, the OWRB’s authorization to use GPT revenues was extended through 2019 by the Legislature and Governor. These GPT funds have been the lynchpin in our ability to implement a multitude of OCWP priority recommendations. Both the Governor and Legislative leadership recognized the importance of continuing this work on vital water infrastructure, critically needed water supply studies, expanded groundwater monitoring, and more.

By session’s end, the OWRB also received approval for our proposed updates to Chapters 45, 46, and 50 of our agency Rules. The approved changes include several technical updates to Oklahoma’s Water Quality Standards, mostly focused on laying the regulatory groundwork for expanding water reuse projects in the state. The other amendments were administrative updates to the agency’s REAP grant program, which provides smaller, rural communities and water districts critical funding for water infrastructure improvements.

In our last newsletter, I highlighted the passage of SB 1219, which authorizes the OWRB and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) to establish a process for Oklahoma citizens or communities to construct ASR projects. I believe that ASR will be an important factor in helping us secure water and drought-proof our communities for decades to come. A working group of interested stakeholders will be launched soon to gain valuable input as we build the state’s ASR program. Early this summer, several OWRB and ODEQ personnel toured an ASR project operated by Wichita, KS to gather further insight into the size and scope of these projects.

Legislators also showed their support for the recommendations recently released by the state’s Water for 2060 Advisory Council by passing Senate Concurrent Resolution 33. Heeding the advice of the Council, SCR 33 urges the Federal government to reform its crop insurance rules and practices that cause producers to waste water on obviously failed crops. As the Council solicited input from Oklahomans on ways to improve water conservation and meet the Water for 2060 goal of consuming no more fresh water in 2060 than was consumed in 2012, agriculture producers frequently cited these Federal crop insurance requirements as a major source of waste.

I'm excited to announce that we have finalized the dates and location for the 37th Annual Governor’s Water Conference and Research Symposium. This year’s conference will be held October 11-12 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center Hotel in Norman, OK. Already, we are booking an exciting lineup of speakers and looking forward to another great conference with our fellow Oklahomans.

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Page last updated: July 25, 2016

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