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Press Release
March 31, 2015

OWRB and USBR to Host Upper Red River Basin Study Public Meeting in Altus

Officials and water planning specialists with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and the Bureau of Reclamation have announced a meeting to provide the public with information regarding an upcoming study of the Upper Red River Basin. The public meeting will be held at the Southwest Technology Center in Altus (711 West Tamarack Road) on April 15th from 5:30 pm to 7 pm. In addition to learning about the study, the meeting will provide the region's stakeholders an opportunity to provide input.

Specifically, the three-year study being conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation and study partners will build upon existing planning efforts in the area; update information on groundwater and surface water demands and supplies; assess risks to the long-term reliability of reservoirs during drought periods; and evaluate adaptation strategies that address water supply challenges.

The OWRBs concurrent maximum annual yield studies on major groundwater basins and surface water allocation studies will play an important role in identifying adaptation strategies, while also meeting statutory mandates which require the OWRB to determine the amount of water available for future appropriation of water rights.

The Upper Red River Basin encompasses over 4,000 square miles throughout Oklahoma and Texas, and includes all or part of 9 counties in southwest Oklahoma. The region includes multiple tributaries to the Red River, the largest of which are the North Fork, the Salt Fork, and the Elm Fork of the Red River. The basin also contains two Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs, Tom Steed and Lugert-Altus Reservoirs. These two reservoirs provide 99 percent of the surface water supply in the study area. This includes water service to almost 45,000 people and irrigation water for approximately 48,000 acres of land.

Both Tom Steed and Lugert-Altus Reservoirs are at record lows as a large portion of the study area has been in extreme or exceptional drought since 2011. Additionally, the 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan Update identified six of the twelve sub-basins within the study area as hot spot basins that have been forecasted to face significant water supply challenges within the next 50 years.

These challenges prompted stakeholders to develop a Southwest Oklahoma Water Supply Action Plan (May 2014) that outlines short-, mid-, and long-term solutions in the area. Using the Southwest Action Plan as a guide, the Upper Red River Basin Study will engage citizens and stakeholders, including the direct beneficiaries of Tom Steed and Lugert-Altus Reservoirs, to evaluate alternatives that help ensure the long-term reliability of these reservoirs, particularly during critical drought periods.

The total estimated study cost is $1,435,500. Reclamation is providing $640,000 (45 percent) and the non-Federal partners (OWRB, Mountain Park Master Conservancy District and Lugert-Altus Irrigation District) are providing $795,500 (55 percent) of the total study cost. The study is expected to be completed in 2018.

For more information regarding the public meeting, please contact Terri Sparks (OWRB) at 405/530-8800 or Collins Balcombe (Bureau of Reclamation) at 512/899-4162.

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