Oklahoma Water Resources Board the Water Agency

August 15, 2014

Oklahoma’s Water for 2060 Advisory Council Tours Water Reuse and Conservation Efforts in Panhandle

As part of Oklahoma’s ongoing Water for 2060 initiative, several state and local officials and water planning specialists recently joined agricultural producers, industrial enterprises, and municipal officials from the Panhandle region for a review of water conservation practices and a tour of water reuse opportunities.

Specifically, the focus of the tour and discussions was the Water for 2060 Advisory Council’s review of current water conservation and reuse practices, in addition to cutting edge irrigation practices at several Panhandle agricultural operations including Fischer Farms and livestock operations at Hitch Feeders. The tour also included a visit to the City of Guymon’s wastewater treatment facility and High Plains Bioenergy’s biodiesel refinery near Guymon, both of which included discussions regarding prospective water reuse projects.

“The Panhandle is one of the regions in Oklahoma that has endured the most significant impacts of our current four-year drought,” said J. D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director and Chairman of the Water for 2060 Advisory Council. “The municipalities, industries and agricultural producers in northwest Oklahoma have taken some important steps toward using their water resources more efficiently. Drought conditions are forcing many of these changes, but technological and regulatory advances will continue to contribute as well.”

The Advisory Council – consisting of 15 appointees from across Oklahoma and representing each major water use and interest group – was first convened in 2013 to begin the work of studying and recommending appropriate water conservation practices, incentives, and educational programs to help meet the ambitious statewide goal of consuming no more freshwater in 2060 than was consumed in 2010 while preserving Oklahoma’s population growth and economic development goals. The Council's final report will be submitted to the Governor, Speaker of the House, and President Pro Tempore by late 2015.

“Oklahoma has set an ambitious goal in the Water for 2060 Act, but it is a vitally important one,” said Bob Drake, a Water for 2060 Advisory Council member. “We must make certain that all Oklahomans have the fresh water resources they need to grow and prosper for many decades to come. As a member of the Advisory Council, and as an Oklahoma Water Resources Board member, I appreciate all of partners and stakeholders that helped plan this tour. It will be a great benefit to completing our final report of recommendations for the Governor and Legislature next year,” Drake added.

Partners participating in the Advisory Council’s Panhandle tour and discussions included the Oklahoma Panhandle Agriculture and Irrigation Association, the City of Guymon, High Plains Bioenergy, and the Panhandle Regional Economic Development Coalition, Inc., among many others.

Two Water for 2060 Advisory Council tour participants pose near equipment used for irrigation in Oklahoma’s Panhandle region.

Fred Fischer of Fischer Farms discusses irrigation techniques that promote water efficiency and conservation.

Oklahoma Water for 2060 Advisory Council and other partnering organizations toured Oklahoma’s Panhandle region August 7 to review water conservation and reuse efforts by irrigators and municipalities.

July 17, 2014

Water Shortage Solutions to be Studied in Three Oklahoma "Hot Spot" Water Basins

Officials and planning specialists from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) have announced three in-depth studies focused on reviewing specific strategies to prevent future water supply shortages in western Oklahoma. The water basins to be analyzed are three of the state’s twelve “Hot Spot” basins which are those identified in the 2012 Update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) as having the most significant water supply challenges within the next 50 years.

The three water basins include the following: Basin 26, part of the Beaver-Cache Watershed Planning Region located near Duncan; Basin 38, part of the Southwest Watershed Planning Region located near Altus; and Basin 51, part of the Central Watershed Planning Region located between Yukon and Watonga. Map of Oklahoma’s 82 OCWP designated watershed basins.

The three studies will focus on how water conservation, marginal quality water supplies, and public water supply system regionalization strategies might address the needs of hot spot basins on a local implementation level, as examples for water users statewide.

“These focused studies will be critical to addressing potential water supply challenges not just for water users who are at the greatest risk of shortages in coming decades, but also for the state as a whole,” said J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director. “By analyzing these strategies at the local level, we will gain critical insight on implementing effective solutions wherever future water challenges may arise in Oklahoma.”

The study for Basin 26 near Duncan will include a comprehensive analysis of water conservation practices with an emphasis on public water supply, one of the state’s largest water use sectors. This will include a review of efficiencies created through irrigation technology and best practices, a review of current and prospective plumbing codes, an investigation of tiered water rate structures, and the creation of local outreach and educational programs, in relation to a specific hot spot basin. Basin 26 is a strong candidate for this type of study because it shows a high potential for achieving a reduction in the frequency and size of water shortages through implementation of additional conservation measures.

Basin 38 near Altus will be analyzed to determine the strategies, opportunities, and benefits associated with regionalization of public water supply systems, building on the interconnections that already exist between several systems. Public water supply systems in Basin 38 and adjoining basins are in relatively close proximity to each other, which may help control costs associated with interconnecting the systems to improve reliability.

Basin 51, which stretches between Yukon and Watonga, will be assessed to determine the effectiveness of using marginal quality water to alleviate future water supply shortages. Marginal quality water sources include recycled municipal supplies, stormwater, oil and gas flowback or produced water, brackish water, and waters with elevated levels of key constituents. Basin 51 shows a high potential for use of marginal quality water to address very specific and targeted future water needs.

The studies are part of the state’s on-going Water for 2060 initiative. Approved by the Governor and Legislature in 2012, the Water for 2060 Act set an ambitious statewide goal of consuming no more fresh water in 2060 than was consumed in 2012, while continuing to grow the state’s population and economy. The Water for 2060 Advisory Council – a council consisting of various state and local water planning officials and water policy advocates – was first convened in 2013 to begin the work of studying and recommending appropriate water conservation practices, incentives, and educational programs to moderate statewide water usage while preserving Oklahoma’s population growth and economic development goals. The Council's final report will be submitted to the Governor, Speaker of the House, and President Pro Tempore by late 2015. The OWRB and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will continue to support the work of the Advisory Council while also conducting more intensive investigations of conservation strategies proposed by the OCWP.

“We had strong attendance at each of our ’Hot Spot’ public meetings earlier this spring, and that has assisted the Advisory Council in its mission,” added Strong. “The public meetings brought together agriculture producers, water providers, and interested citizens residing in the state’s twelve hot spot planning basins.”

“As we witness the impacts that long-term drought can have on fresh water supplies for many Oklahoma communities, the Water for 2060 Advisory Council’s work continues to grow in importance,” added Strong. “I look forward to each of these three in-depth studies, and I hope to see continued participation from water users and stakeholders in each of these three Hot Spot basins.”

July 17, 2014

OWRB and Partners Announce Oklahoma Lakes Appreciation Month

Oklahoma’s lakes are among the state’s most beloved and important natural resources. Thanks to a recent proclamation by Governor Mary Fallin, the month of July 2014 has been declared “Oklahoma Lakes Appreciation Month.”

Throughout July, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s (OWRB) Lake Monitoring Team and the Oklahoma Clean Lakes and Waters Association (OCLWA) will highlight the vital role our state’s lakes and reservoirs play by bringing together volunteer water monitors and state officials for water monitoring activities on Oklahoma’s lakes.

For example, this recognition of Oklahoma’s lakes overlaps with a great opportunity for citizens to get involved in monitoring and protecting their favorite Oklahoma lake or reservoir - the “Great North American Secchi Dip-In.”

The Great North American Secchi Dip-In is an effort by volunteers and professionals to gather data on the world’s water bodies during a short period of time each summer.

This annual event provides yearly “snapshots” of water transparency and clarity that will eventually be used to review at long-term lake trends throughout North America.

By being involved in the Secchi Dip-In, you can advertise your own monitoring efforts, educate others about water quality, and participate in a national event for environmental awareness.

Last year, more than 2,000 volunteers’ participated and more than 2,600 lakes across North America were sampled!

The Secchi Dip-In runs from June 28 through the end of July. That means there is still time to participate.

And, we’d love to hear more about your experiences with the Secchi Dip-In, your favorite spot on an Oklahoma lake, or even a great time you’ve had recently out on the water, at the OCWLA Facebook page.

Recognizing Oklahoma’s Lake Appreciation Month alongside OWRB, OCLWA, and Governor Fallin, are the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

May 13, 2014

Oklahoma Water Appreciation Day Set for May 19

The ninth annual Oklahoma Water Appreciation Day will be held May 19 at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) will host the event featuring water agency and organization booths and displays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Capitol’s 4th floor rotunda.

“While we hope Oklahomans appreciate water every day, Water Appreciation Day is a great opportunity to highlight for state legislators and other government officials the importance of Oklahoma’s water resources, as well as to provide information on water management, conservation, and educational programs,” said J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director. “This exhibition on Oklahoma’s diverse water resources is especially appropriate now as we wrestle with a fourth straight year of drought and continue implementation of Water for 2060, our major statewide water conservation campaign.”

Arising from the 2012 update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, Water for 2060 stems from legislation signed by Governor Fallin in 2012 that establishes a statewide goal of maintaining fresh water use at current levels through 2060. An Advisory Council is currently studying innovative incentives and voluntary solutions to help meet this ambitious goal, while at the same time meeting increasing demands for water and avoiding forecasted water shortages. Some options under consideration include improved irrigation/farming techniques, water recycling/reuse systems, high efficiency plumbing codes, smart irrigation, education programs to change consumer habits, water conservation pricing, financial assistance incentives, and leak detection programs.

The OWRB, Oklahoma’s water agency since 1957, continues its original charge of identifying water problems and proposing policies for fair and equitable water laws. Additionally, the OWRB has provided more than $3.1 billion in loans and grants to assist communities and rural water districts in the construction of water and wastewater facilities, administers almost 13,000 permits for the beneficial use of stream and groundwater, monitors and studies the quality and quantity of surface and groundwaters, ensures the safety of private dams, encourages responsible floodplain management, coordinates four interstate stream compacts, develops Oklahoma Water Quality Standards to curb water pollution, identifies pollution sources, restores water quality, and oversees statewide water planning.

In addition to the OWRB, and several academic institutions and civic organizations focused on water issues, the following state and federal agencies will also be featured in the State Capitol exhibition on May 19:

  • Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission
  • Oklahoma Department of Transportation – Waterways Branch
  • Oklahoma Conservation Commission
  • US Bureau of Reclamation
  • Oklahoma Department of Mines
  • Oklahoma Geological Survey
  • Oklahoma Corporation Commission
  • Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality
  • Oklahoma Mesonet

For more information on Water Appreciation Day, call Lauren Sturgeon at 405-530-8800.

May 8, 2014

OWRB official selected for EPA federal advisory committee

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) announced today that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected Jennifer Wasinger, Assistant Chief of the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Division, to serve on its Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB).

The EFAB is a federal advisory committee established to provide stakeholder input directly to EPA's Administrator, as well as its program offices, on ways to lower the costs of and increase investments in environmental and public health protection. Wasinger joins 28 other members of EFAB from across the U.S., like former EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Tracey Mehan, and her selection to the committee is considered both a significant honor and responsibility.

“Jennifer’s selection to EFAB is a win-win for Oklahoma and the nation,” said J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director. “It gives our state a seat at the table as the EPA seeks input on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its infrastructure financing programs. At the same time, it will inject some practical, common sense from an Oklahoman experienced in how to operate and manage one of the nation’s premier water financing programs. This significant appointment is a reflection of Jennifer’s strong service to the citizens of Oklahoma.”

While serving on EFAB, Wasinger will provide EPA with advice and recommendations on lowering the cost of environmental regulations, removing financial and programmatic barriers that raise costs, increasing public and private contributions to environmental facilities and services, and building state and local financial capacity to meet environmental laws.

The committee’s membership, which meets up to two times annually, consists of state and local government officials like Wasinger, financial and industrial leaders, elected officials, select federal employees, and members of tribal, environmental, and nongovernmental organizations.

“This is a very prestigious appointment, and I am very proud of her selection,” said Joe Freeman, OWRB Chief of Financial Assistance Division. “Jennifer has established herself as an integral part of the state’s long-term plan for addressing water and wastewater project funding needs.”

In her role at the OWRB, Wasinger works closely with both municipalities and rural water systems throughout Oklahoma on water and wastewater financial assistance programs. She also serves as a technical advisor on the OWRB’s Water for 2060 campaign which is a legislatively mandated statewide goal of maintaining fresh water use at current levels through 2060.

Since its inception in 1985, the OWRB’s Financial Assistance programs have funded over 800 loans and grants totaling more than $3 billion. Currently, the OWRB holds 418 loans issued to 210 borrowers totaling $1.1 billion.

March 20, 2014

Oklahoma Emergency Drought Relief Commission announces $1.125 million in grants to drought-stricken communities

With drought conditions entering their fourth year across much of western Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Emergency Drought Relief Commission announced today the award of $1,125,000 in Emergency Drought Relief (EDR) grants to four Oklahoma community water systems. The four community water systems receiving grants include the City of Altus for $575,000, the Guymon Utilities Authority for $200,000, the Hollis Public Works Authority for $100,000, and the Tipton Public Works Authority for $250,000.

“I commend my fellow Oklahoma Emergency Drought Relief commissioners, including Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese and Conservation Commission Director Mike Thralls, for their service on behalf of drought-stricken communities across Oklahoma,” said J.D. Strong, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

“In addition, the authorization of this drought relief funding would not have been possible without the leadership of Governor Mary Fallin and the strong support of State Senators Mike Schulz, Don Barrington, and Bryce Marlatt, as well as State Representatives Don Armes, Charles Ortega, and Gus Blackwell whose districts face exceptional drought.”

The EDR grant program provides funding to communities in drought affected Oklahoma counties for drought mitigation and related water projects in conjunction with a formal gubernatorial drought declaration. Governor Fallin signed a drought declaration on October 15, 2013 for Texas, Harmon, Greer, Jackson, and Tillman counties.

EDR grants are funded through Oklahoma's Emergency Drought Relief Fund, which was enabled through passage of HB 1923 in 2012. In addition to the EDR fund, the legislation also established the Emergency Drought Commission, which serves as a drought advisory panel to the Governor and appropriate state agencies. The commission consists of Oklahoma’s secretary of agriculture and the executive directors of both the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.

The City of Altus will use the grant to help develop an additional well field and infrastructure necessary to bring groundwater into its system, which is currently suffering from severely limited and rapidly declining surface water supplies.

The Guymon Utilities Authority will use the grant to help develop an additional well, as well as to repair and upgrade a booster pump station, both of which would result in a more reliable supply of water for Guymon’s drought-stricken citizens and industries.

The Hollis Public Works Authority will use the grant to help locate and develop additional groundwater sources near the community’s new water treatment plant, which should help keep both initial and long term costs lower, as well as provide more reliable water supplies.

The Tipton Public Works Authority will use the grant to help develop two additional wells and connect them to Tipton’s current water system, thus providing additional reliable supplies of water for its citizens and industries.

The commission establishes the eligibility for drought relief grants, which by statute can include the following mitigation activities:

  • Emergency infrastructure conservation and measures;
  • Rural fire suppression activities as directed by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry;
  • Water conservation methods in production agriculture; Pond cleanup and construction; Red cedar eradication;
  • Soil conservation;
  • Providing of water for livestock; and
  • Other drought response activities identified by the commission.

For more information on drought monitoring and preparedness visit, http://www.owrb.ok.gov/drought/.

For more information regarding the Emergency Drought Commission visit, http://www.owrb.ok.gov/supply/drought/drought_commission.php.

February 27, 2014

Oklahoma Water Resources Board Financial Programs Receive Triple-A Rating

Through AAA ratings and a successful bond sale, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is set to continue helping finance water infrastructure improvements statewide. On February 25, the OWRB sold approximately $56.1 million in revenue bonds for its State Revolving Fund (SRF) bond programs.

“For over 30 years, the OWRB’s financial programs have benefitted Oklahoma water users by providing water districts and communities with a stable resource for financing water and wastewater projects,” said OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong. “We take our commitment to serving Oklahoma’s water needs very seriously, and the funds generated by these bonds are important to that mission.”

The OWRB bonds sold this week received an “AAA” rating from all three major ratings services: Moody’s Investor Service, Standard & Poor’s Rating Service, and Fitch Ratings. Citing a number of program and oversight credit strengths in both ratings, the rating services also reaffirmed the AAA rating of the OWRB’s current outstanding debt totaling approximately $581 million.

The OWRB remains the only entity in Oklahoma to hold an AAA rating from all three major ratings services on all financial obligations. Because of the excellent ratings, the OWRB bonds will command a low interest rate from bond buyers.

“This rating directly affects our borrowers in a positive way,” said Joe Freeman, chief of the agency’s Financial Assistance Division. “Because we can provide loans to Oklahoma communities and rural water districts at lower interest rates than from conventional financing sources, it helps them keep their water and sewer rates lower.”

The OWRB lends the funds from bond sales to local entities to finance water and sewage system improvements under the state's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).

In addition to the CWSRF and DWSRF programs, the OWRB also administers a third program for waste water and drinking water treatment loans – the State Revenue Bond Loan Program. In November 2013, Standard & Poor’s (S &P) rating service reaffirmed the AAA rating on that program as well.

In a February 2014 review of the State Revenue Bond Loan Program, S&P highlighted Oklahoma citizens’ recent passage of SQ 764, which authorizes the OWRB to issue up to $300 million of state general obligation bonds to help meet the projected multi-billion dollar need of Oklahoma’s water-related infrastructure. “This additional support effectively lowers the financial risk score assigned to the state loan program and allows for an adjustment of the rating to 'AAA',” S&P reported.

The three ratings agencies praised the OWRB for its “strong” and “experienced” financial program management, its “sound” underwriting standards, its “extremely strong” program reserves, and the programs’ “excellent history of borrower repayment” with “no loans in default.”

OWRB Financing Programs by the Numbers

Since its inception in 1985, the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Program has authorized 800 loans totaling more than $3 billion. In addition, the OWRB currently holds 431 outstanding SRF loans issued to 210 borrowers totaling $1.62 billion.

The five largest borrowers (Bartlesville, Lawton, Moore, Oklahoma City and Tulsa) account for just over one-fourth of the loan pool, but no single borrower accounts for more than 11 percent of the total portfolio.

Fitch, S&P and Moody’s pointed to the OWRB programs’ strengths in cash flow, interest earnings, debt-service coverage, and reserves of $89 million.

In fact, Moody’s emphasized that the OWRB’s programs “could withstand a default on over 50 percent of loans” over the next 30 years “and still meet debt service.”

February 24, 2014

Regional Water Conservation Measures to be Discussed at Water for 2060 Hot Spot Meetings

State water agency officials and planning specialists will hold a series of public meetings to share information and obtain feedback on water conservation strategies that could mitigate projected water shortages in Oklahoma’s most compromised areas.

Agriculture producers, water providers, and interested citizens residing in and around twelve “Hot Spot” planning basins—those determined to have the most significant water supply challenges within the next 50 years—will be offered an opportunity to shape actions that could collectively satisfy future water demands and thus avoid substantial water shortages projected in those areas. The meetings, hosted by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, will be held March 11 in Goodwell at the Hughes Strong Auditorium on the Oklahoma Panhandle State University campus, March 12 at the Quartz Mountain Resort (north of Altus), and March 13 in Duncan at the Simmons Center. Each meeting will start at 6 pm. [A fourth meeting has also been scheduled for April 16 in Yukon at the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore Drive.]

Investigations conducted for the 2012 Update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) indicate that many of the state’s 82 watershed planning basins are likely to experience surface water and/or groundwater deficits by 2060. While the magnitude or probability of projected shortages is relatively minor in many areas, each of the dozen Hot Spot basins are facing potentially large and recurring water deficiencies that require more immediate attention. In addition to traditional conservation measures (irrigation efficiencies, plumbing codes, tiered rate structures, educational programs, etc.), planning studies indicate that the use of marginal quality waters and other unconventional sources of supply and the regionalization of select water systems could be particularly promising in circumventing future water crises. These options and their anticipated effectiveness in each planning basin, as determined by more detailed evaluation conducted as part of the ongoing OCWP “Water for 2060” initiative, will be discussed in more detail at the March public meetings.

“In 2006, when we initiated the Water Plan update, our overriding goal was to meet the long-term water needs of every Oklahoman,” says J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director. “If we can address the looming water supply problems of those citizens and water users at greatest risk—those residing in identified Hot Spots—then we can certainly implement effective strategies wherever water challenges exist in Oklahoma.”

With the Legislature’s passage of the Water for 2060 Act in 2012—prompted by a priority recommendation of the most recent OCWP update—Oklahoma has become the first state in the nation to establish a statewide goal of consuming no more fresh water in 2060 than is consumed today. To meet this ambitious goal, the Water for 2060 Advisory Council was convened in 2013 to begin formulating conservation practices, incentives, and educational programs that could accordingly moderate statewide water usage. The OWRB, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and their contractors support the work of the Advisory Council while conducting more intensive investigations of conservation strategies proposed by the OCWP.

For more information on the Water for 2060 Hot Spot meetings or the ongoing conservation initiative, visit the OWRB’s website at www.owrb.ok.gov or call 405-530-8800.

February 11, 2014

Garber-Wellington Hydrology Study Report Now Available

The Garber-Wellington Aquifer Water Management Study report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is now available. The study was coordinated by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and funded through the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) and federal funds from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and USGS, which also served as study partners. The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG), Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), and Tinker Air Force Base, and other state and federal agencies also contributed the investigation.

The Garber-Wellington aquifer, also referred to as the Central Oklahoma aquifer, underlies about 3,000 square miles in central Oklahoma, where the aquifer is used for municipal, industrial, commercial, agricultural, and domestic water supplies. With the exception of Oklahoma City, all the major communities in central Oklahoma rely either solely or partly on groundwater from this aquifer. In addition to these municipalities, more than 20,000 homeowners use well water from the aquifer for household or yard use. With a population of approximately 1 million over the aquifer, which is expected to increase 30 percent by 2060, sufficient water supply for the future is a major concern of water planners and managers.

The primary objectives for the study were to characterize the geohydrology of the aquifer and to construct a digital groundwater flow model to be used in simulating water management strategies. The OWRB will utilize this information to determine the maximum annual yield of the aquifer and the amount of water that may be allocated permanently to permitted water users (referred to as the equal proportionate share or EPS). Oklahoma water law requires the OWRB to conduct hydrologic investigations of State aquifers (groundwater basins) for this purpose. Until the final EPS determination is made and approved by the Board, users will continue to be issued temporary permits for two acre-feet of water per acre per year.

Study results indicate that in the 169 wells analyzed, the aquifer’s water level declined an average of 3.75 feet during the period of 1987 to 2009.  Annual groundwater use in 2008, including domestic use and permitted use reported to the OWRB, was estimated to be about 52,000 acre-feet.  Annual average recharge to the aquifer was estimated to be 1.84 inches per year from 1987 through 2009.

A calibrated, transient groundwater-flow model was utilized to simulate various groundwater withdrawal scenarios, including a current withdrawal scenario and several management scenarios.  The management scenarios will help the OWRB in the months ahead to determine the maximum annual yield of the aquifer.

For more information, please contact OWRB Geologist Chris Neel at (405) 530-8800.

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