Oklahoma Water Resources Board the Water Agency

Frequently Asked Questions

Dam Safety

I plan to build a pond on my property. Do I need a permit to use water from it?

Surface water in Oklahoma is considered to be publicly owned and available to anyone who can demonstrate a need to use the water for a beneficial purpose and can show a right to access the water's source.

As the state's designated steward of Oklahoma's water resources, the OWRB regulates water use to preserve supplies for future users. Because you own the land upon which your pond is located, you have access to the water and are entitled to use it without a permit for domestic purposes, such as watering livestock up to the normal grazing capacity of your land. However, if you use the water for specified agricultural, municipal, industrial, or related purposes, Oklahoma law requires that you obtain a permit from the OWRB.

Is construction of my pond subject to any state, federal, or local requirements?

Generally, if your impoundedment is greater than 25 feet in height and impounds 15 acre-feet or more of water storage or is greater than 6 feet in height and impounds 50 acre-feet or more, you must submit to the OWRB plans and specifications related to construction of the new dam. (Plans and specs are also required for modification to existing structures under OWRB jurisdiction.)

However, if the pond is primarily for agricultural use and designed by an agricultural agency, the OWRB only requires filing of a notice of intent for construction. The OWRB strongly suggests that you contact an agency dam safety official early in the construction planning process.

Is a dam near my property well maintained?

If you are concerned about a dam near you, contact our agency and request the most recent inspection report. You will need to know the exact location of the dam or its ID number. If it is not a high-hazard dam (life or property is not at significant risk) no inspection report is required and hence unavailable.

Dam Safety home page | back to top

Financial Assistance, General

When submitting an application for financial assistance to the OWRB, what engineering information should be included?

A detailed engineering report must be submitted with all OWRB financial applications. The report should follow the format adopted by the Funding Agency Coordinating Team (FACT).

Am I required to hire an engineer to prepare a preliminary engineering report?

Projects that require a "Permit to Construct" from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are required to have a registered professional engineer prepare an engineering report and/or design analysis, as well as the plans and specifications.

Projects that do not require a DEQ "Permit to Construct" are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Which financial applications require submittal of an Environmental Information Document (EID)?

The Clean Water and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Funds require submittal of an Environmental Information Document (EID). The OWRB prepares and issues the environmental decision for the CWSRF loan program and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) prepares and issues the environmental decision for the DWSRF loan program.

Financial Assistance home page | back to top

Financial Assistance, Loans

I would like to obtain a loan from the OWRB. How do I get started?

The first step is to submit a preliminary application to the Board. For a Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan, contact the OWRB and request to be placed on the CWSRF priority list. Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan projects are recommended by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Applicants should contact DEQ at (405) 702-8100 and ask to be placed on the DWSRF Project Priority List.

Is there a penalty for prepayment of OWRB loan principal?

No. There is no penalty for pre-payment of any loan issued by the OWRB. However, loans from OWRB Revenue Bonds may require that prepayments be received during a specified time period or window of opportunity. Please contact an OWRB financial analyst for details.

What are the interest rates for OWRB loans?

The variable interest rate for a Bond loan changes quarterly. The fixed interest rate for bond loans is set at the time of closing and is based on market conditions at that time. For more information, see current rates.

Are previously incurred engineering expenses eligible for reimbursement from OWRB loan funds?

Yes. Costs directly associated with any engineering study or report related to the proposed project can be reimbursed. For tax purposes, Revenue Bond loans require that a Reimbursement Resolution be provided to the OWRB before any costs are incurred.

Am I required to hire a financial advisor?

No. A financial advisor is not required for any OWRB loan. However, many communities hire a financial advisor to help them complete the loan application and identify the source(s) of repayment. Financial advisor fees may be included in the loan.

Am I required to hire an attorney?

Yes. Both a local attorney and a bond attorney are required to close all OWRB loans. Attorney fees may be included in the loan.

Do I require a trustee bank?

All Revenue Bond loans require a trustee bank; loan funds are transferred to the trustee bank at loan closing and payment requests are made from the trustee bank account. DWSRF and CWSRF loans require a trustee bank after construction is complete; during construction, loan funds are transferred to the borrower as costs are incurred.

When are loan payments due?

Loan payments for bond loans begin the month following loan closing and are due to the trustee bank on the 15th of each month until the loan matures. Loan principal payments for DWSRF and CWSRF loans generally begin within six months of construction completion and are due to the OWRB semi-annually until the loan matures. Interest and administrative fees are billed every six months after the loan is closed and eligible loan costs have been paid.

Financial Assistance home page | back to top

Financial Assistance, Grants

What type of "emergency" would qualify for an OWRB Emergency Grant?

An emergency is defined in Chapter 50 of the OWRB Rules and Regulations as any situation where the life, health, or property of persons being served by an entity are endangered. OWRB rules include three categories (see 785:50-7) of emergency that must all be beyond control of the applicant. Examples of emergencies include water well contamination, damage from mudslides, flood-damaged lines, and tornado damage. Failures due to poor maintenance are not considered emergencies.

What should a complete grant application include?

All grant applications must be signed and attested and include the attorney's signature. The application must also include the Resolution authorizing application to the OWRB, incorporation documents for the entity, a copy of the ordinance/resolution adopting the current water and/or sewer rates (if necessary), a copy of the water purchase contract, the most recent audit and a preliminary engineering report with an estimated cost of the project.

We have been awarded a REAP and/or Emergency Grant. When will we get the money?

After the OWRB approves the grant, certain documentation is required prior to the release of funds, including the executed Grant Agreement, verification that a separate account for the funds has been opened, executed contract documents, Notice to Proceed, and copy of the DEQ Permit to Construct (when required). Upon receipt of all necessary documentation, OWRB staff request a check from the Office of State Finance. (This usually requires seven to 10 days.) Once the check is received, staff contact the entity regarding delivery.

When are REAP applications due?

REAP applications must be received by the OWRB by 5:00 p.m. on the first business day of September to be considered for potential funding from the following Fiscal Year appropriations.

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Floodplain Management

How can I find out if my property lies within a regulatory floodplain?

Flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs), published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, indicate a community's flood hazard areas and degree of risk in those areas. Communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) usually have FIRMs on file in a local repository, such as the local planning, zoning, or engineering office; town hall; or county government headquarters.

Additionally, portions of the FIRMs are able to be printed through the FEMA Map Service Center. Replacement FIRMs may be ordered via toll-free number, 1-877-336-2627. Due to liability concerns, OWRB employees are prohibited from making FIRM flood hazard determinations unless the determination is for state-owned or -operated property.

My property lies in a regulatory floodplain, but my community does not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. Am I prohibited from purchasing flood insurance?

Currently, a NFIP policy is only available in participating communities. Flood insurance may be available through Private Insurers and Underwriters. The rates and premiums are set by those companies and the underwriters, rated on the degree of risk involved. OWRB does not have any jurisdiction over these providers nor recommend any providers.

My property doesn't lie in a regulatory floodplain. Am I still eligible for flood insurance?

Yes. You may purchase flood insurance from any licensed insurance agent, regardless of where you live in an NFIP member community. For information on policies or rates, please consult http://www.floodsmart.gov or a licensed insurance agent.

Do I need a permit from the OWRB if I want to build a house in the floodplain?

No. However, you may need a floodplain development permit from the local jurisdiction in which you live, such as a city, town, or county. Prior to construction or development of property, you should contact your local floodplain administrator. The OWRB does regulate development in floodplains of state-owned or state-operated property.

Floodplain Management home page | back to top

Groundwater & Well Drilling

How do I find out if there is sufficient groundwater available in an area where I am considering purchasing land?

While OWRB staff are unable to predict with absolute certainty whether or not groundwater is available in a specific area, agency hydrologists can utilize available aquifer and water well yield data to assist citizens in identifying the locations most likely to produce sufficient well yields.

Where can I get maps of the state's aquifers?

The Oklahoma Geological Survey publishes and maintains Hydrologic Atlases for Oklahoma. They are available from the agency's Publication Section. In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey has digital data sets describing characteristics of some Oklahoma aquifers.

Where can I get depth-to-water information on the state's aquifers?

The OWRB currently maintains a water resource monitoring network of approximately 750 wells for which depth-to-water information is collected on an annual basis. Real time and historical depths of monitoring wells can be obtained from our Groundwater Viewer. In addition, the OWRB possesses a database of water well driller logs that indicate the first zone of water encountered and often depth to water of the associated well. Contact the OWRB's Planning and Management Division for more information at (405) 530-8800.

A new long-term Groundwater Monitoring & Assessment Program (GMAP) began in summer 2013 that will greatly increase our understanding of the ambient quality and quantity of Oklahoma's aquifers and their interconnectivity. Details about the program and data from the first year of sampling are now available online. The second of four implementation phases is scheduled to begin Summer 2014.

How can I find out if there are any water wells located on my property or within a certain distance of my property boundaries?

For a nominal fee, OWRB staff can conduct a search of the agency's water well log database and produce a list of wells in a particular area, including information on completion date, depth, and related details. However, data is somewhat limited for water wells constructed prior to 1970.

I need to have a water well drilled. How can I find a reputable well driller in my area?

The OWRB licenses well drillers and pump installers who do business in Oklahoma.

Am I required to locate my water well some minimum distance from my property boundaries?

Distance requirements exist only for wells drilled into those groundwater basins for which the OWRB has determined a maximum annual yield. Current rules state that the spacing distance for those wells (other than domestic) is 1,320 feet from any other authorized well owned by another party. Maximum annual yield studies have been completed on many of Oklahoma's major and minor groundwater basins.

Well Drillers home page | Groundwater Monitoring home page | back to top

Rural Water Districts & Service

My property is located outside a municipal water service area and I lack access to a potable source of drinking water. How do I find out if there is a rural water system in my area?

The OWRB recently completed a survey of more than 700 rural water systems in Oklahoma and maintains a database of related information.

Who should I contact with a complaint about the water rates and/or operation of my rural water district.

While the OWRB works periodically with many of the state's rural water districts and related entities, the agency has no jurisdiction over their operation and management. First, try to work out the problem with the district board or other local rule-making body. The Oklahoma Rural Water Association (in Oklahoma City, 405-672-8925), an organization that represents the interests of the state's rural water systems, may also assist in mediating conflicts and problems.

Rural Water Systems home page | back to top

Water Quality & Pollution

What is the quality of my local lake or stream?

OWRB staff sample a regular rotation of a majority of the larger lakes and streams across the state and publish the latest findings in the annual BUMP Report. View lake data here and stream data here. Look for whether the lake or stream is "Supporting" or "Not Supporting" the Primary/Secondary Body Contact, Public & Private Water Supply, Fish Consumption, or Fish & Wildlife Propagation Beneficial Use. For further explanation of these designations please read Beneficial Uses Explained.

Which lakes are safe for my children to swim in?

Swimming and other recreational activities are safe in most Oklahoma waterbodies; however, large quantities of any untreated water in any state should not be ingested. Avoid swimming in those waterbodies listed by the ODEQ as impaired for bacteria and can be found here: Impaired Lakes List or Impaired Streams List.

With regard to blue-green algae, avoid those waters that have a green sheen or paint-like scum on their surface. For the most current lake specific information regarding blue-green algae in Oklahoma visit the Department of Tourism's Check My Lake page.

Are the fish I catch in Oklahoma waters safe to eat?

Fish consumption is perfectly fine for most waterbodies in the state of Oklahoma; however, impairments for metals and other toxics do exist in some lakes and streams and should be avoided. For the latest consumption advisories visit the ODEQ's Hook, Line, & Supper page. Those streams listed by the ODEQ as impaired for metals and can be found here: Impaired Streams List.

What should I do if my pond or lake has suffered a fish kill?

Contact the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at 405-521-3851.

Does the state do groundwater measurements or groundwater quality testing?

Yes, the Groundwater Level Measurement Program, commonly called the Mass Measurement Program, has been in place since the 1950's and limited water quality monitoring since the 1980's. Real time and historical depths of monitoring wells can be obtained from our Groundwater Viewer. More on the program and available online data can be found here. Learn more about groundwater and the most current studies here. Various older studies and reports are also available for download here.

Beginning in the summer of 2013, a new long-term Groundwater Monitoring & Assessment Program (GMAP) begins that will examine statewide the ambient quality and quantity of Oklahoma's aquifers. In the coming months more information on the program and actual well data will become available online.

What should I do if I have a complaint about the odor, taste, or appearance of drinking water and/or water pollution?

Contact the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality using their toll-free hotline at 1-800-522-0206.

I donít like the seaweed growing in my pond and want to get rid of it. Do I need a license to apply a herbicide?

Not if it is your pond. However, sometimes it is better to hire a professional. If you choose to treat the pond yourself, be sure to read and follow all warnings and directions. Be aware that quickly killing all the algae and/or plants in your pond may also deprive your fish of oxygen and lead to fish kills.

What should I do if I have problems or questions about soil erosion and/or sediment in my lake or pond?

Contact the Oklahoma Conservation Commission at (405) 521-2384.

Water Quality Standards home page | back to top

Wetland Water Quality Standards

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) in collaboration with the Oklahoma Wetlands Technical Work Group is developing wetland water quality standards (WQS). The wetland WQS will work to protect and sustain Oklahomaís wetlands.

Why should wetlands be protected with specific water quality standards?

Wetlands are a unique waterbody type that are extremely biologically productive, diverse, and provide rich habitat for fish, amphibians, and wildlife. Wetlands are often popular recreation areas for people to enjoy outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and bird watching. Wetlands also serve an important role on the landscape in storing floodwater, preventing erosion, and filtering water.

Oklahoma has a variety of types of wetlands including riverine, depressional, and playa lakes. Oklahoma has lost 67% of historic wetland areas; it is important that the remaining 33 % be sustained.

Wetlands are the link between land and water and have distinguishing features including ponded surface water or water saturated soils and plants specifically adapted to survive in wet anoxic conditions. These unique wetland features present scientific challenges for protecting wetlands using traditional lakes and streams water quality standards. Therefore, water quality standards specifically designed for wetlands are needed to effectively protect wetlands resources.

How are wetlands protected with water quality standards now?

Wetlands are a water of the state and are currently protected with the default WQS. However, the default standards were developed for lakes and streams and are often not suitable for wetlands; for example, applying the default standards to wetlands can erroneously identify healthy wetlands as wetlands in poor condition. Thus, there are both scientific and regulatory challenges with implementing the default standards for wetlands. This is why we are developing wetland specific water quality standards.

What are the components of the wetland WQS?

All water quality standards have three components 1) beneficial uses, 2) criteria to protect beneficial uses, and 3) the stateís antidegradation policy. The wetland WQS will include these three components specific for wetland waterbodies. In addition, OWRB plans to include a definition for wetlands in the definition section of the Standards document.

How are the draft wetland water quality standards being developed?

The wetland WQS are being developed collaboratively between the OWRB and the Oklahoma Wetlands Technical Work Group. The OWRB is leading the effort as the state agency authorized to promulgate standards to protect Oklahomaís waterbodies. At the start of the standards development project five guiding principles were outlined.

  1. Recognize wetlands as a unique waterbody type in the standards
  2. Develop meaningful and workable standards for wetland protection
  3. Ensure the standards are comprehensively rooted in wetland science
  4. Ensure the standards are compatible with existing/future assessment methods
  5. Provide clarity to regulatory programs

These principles inform the work of OWRB and the Oklahoma Wetlands Technical Work Group as the draft wetland WQS are developed.

Additionally, as with all WQS revisions, the wetland WQS will undergo a formal public comment period and a public hearing.

What are the benefits of adopting wetland WQS?

Wetland WQS will help improve and maintain the stateís wetlands by providing a benchmark against which to assess condition, plan preservation, mitigation, and or restoration activities. Water quality standards specifically for wetlands will also provide a transparent and consistent foundation for policies and technical procedures related to activities that impact wetlands.

Is other information such as, mapping, classification, and assessment methods needed before wetland WQS?

The 2013 -2018 Oklahoma Wetland Program Plan was jointly developed by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the Oklahoma Wetlands Technical Work Group. The Wetland Program Plan is the umbrella document that guides and coordinates wetland projects across the state; the plan is organized around five core elements 1) Monitoring and Assessment, 2) Regulation, 3) Voluntary Restoration and Protection, 4) Water Quality Standards, 5) Education and Outreach. The development of wetland WQS is just one element of the plan and various projects relating to different plan elements are being conducted in parallel. For example, projects addressing wetland mapping, assessment method development, determination of reference condition, and outreach efforts are all underway. All of these projects complement each other and do not have to be conducted in a specific order.

Once wetland water quality standards are adopted how will this change water quality programs?

Water quality standards define the goals for a waterbody and wetland WQS will support ongoing efforts to develop wetland monitoring and assessment programs and allow the state to track trends in wetland condition. Wetland WQS will also provide a benchmark that can be used to assess the progress and or success of wetland restoration and protection efforts. Additionally as with all water quality standards, the wetland WQS can be employed in various water quality programs to ensure that Oklahomaís aquatic resources are proactively protected.

Will the new standards expand the area under state jurisdiction for water quality programs?

No. The extent of state jurisdiction over waters of the state will remain the same.

What happens if we donít adopt wetland WQS?

If we donít adopt wetland WQS, the default WQS will still be in place and at best provide nonspecific protection for wetlands. Because the default WQS are often not suitable for wetlands they have proven problematic to implement and as a result wetland protection is often overlooked or misapplied within our water quality programs.

How can I find out more information and get involved?

Please contact OWRB Water Quality Standards staff for more information.

Rebecca Veiga Nascimento


OWRB is seeking participation and cooperation with all stakeholders through meetings with the Oklahoma Wetlands Work Group. OWRB encourages stakeholder engagement, if you have questions/comments or would like to request a meeting please contact OWRB Water Quality Standards staff.

Water Quality Standards home page | back to top

Water Use & Water Law

Do I need a water use permit from the OWRB?

If you intend to use water for any purpose other than domestic use, Oklahoma law requires that you obtain a permit from the OWRB.

What is considered "domestic use"?

Domestic use is the use of water for household purposes, for farm and domestic animals up to the normal grazing capacity of the land, and for the irrigation of land not exceeding a total of three acres in area for the growing of gardens, orchards, and lawns. Domestic use also includes water used for agricultural purposes by natural individuals, use for fire protection, and use by non-household entities for drinking water, restrooms, and watering of lawns, provided such uses don't exceed five acre-feet per year.

If groundwater use is a private property right, why is it regulated?

The State Legislature has determined that reasonable regulation of groundwater is required to preserve at least the minimum life of state groundwater supplies and ensure that landowners receive their designated share of water.

Permitting home page | back to top

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