Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan
Oklahoma statutes direct the OWRB to forecast long-term water needs through decennial updates to the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) to provide local planners and lawmakers with the data critical for ensuring safe and reliable water for all Oklahomans. In addition to supply/demand studies across 82 basins, the 2012 OCWP Update employed an unprecedented multi-year citizen engagement effort to identify diverse issues and solutions. Eight priority policy recommendations emerged from 83 public meetings across the state resulting in over 2,300 public comments. During 2019, the agency remained committed to furthering implementation of these priority recommendations and began work on the 2025 update, meeting with stakeholders around the state to compile a list of today's most pressing water issues and develop potential strategies and solutions.
Water Rights Administration
The OWRB appropriates fresh water resources as directed by Oklahoma statutes through more than 14,800 active long-term permits for more than 6.89 million acre-feet per year. The OWRB's permitting staff issued 83 groundwater permits in 2019 totaling 26,440 acre-feet, and 47 stream water permits totaling 37,660 acre-feet, along with 1,215 provisional temporary permits totaling 51,100 acre-feet for oil and gas producers and others in need of a temporary source of water. To support water rights administration, the agency conducted surface water allocation modeling and availability analyses, coordinated statewide water use reporting, and responded to public complaints.
Total Permitted Water by Use in Oklahoma
The OWRB conducts hydrologic investigations as directed by Oklahoma Statutes to determine the amount of fresh groundwater available for appropriation. A priority recommendation of the OCWP focused on addressing the backlog of the required Maximum Annual Yield (MAY) studies and overdue twenty-year updates of the state's groundwater basins. This work is now underway through eight active studies. The Elk City Sandstone, Gerty Sand, Cimarron Alluvium and Terrace, and the Ogallala Roger Mills are in review stages with publication anticipated within the upcoming year. The OWRB is actively collecting data on the Ada-Vamoosa, Red River Alluvium and Terrace, Blaine, and the Whitehorse minor aquifers. In addition, five contracts with the USGS to conduct investigations on the Roubidoux, Boone, Salt Fork of the Red River, Washita River Reach 3 & 4, and the Salt Fork of Arkansas River aquifers have been established. An investigation on the Washita River Reach 1 is currently in review through the USGS and the OWRB with an anticipated publication within the next year.
The OWRB continues collaborative work with the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), Foss Reservoir Master Conservancy District (MCD), and Fort Cobb MCD on the Upper Washita Basin Study, scheduled for completion in 2021. The OWRB is also collaborating with the USBR, Lugert-Altus Irrigation District (Lugert-Altus Reservoir), and Mountain Park MCD (Tom Steed Reservoir) on the Upper Red River Basin Study, scheduled for completion in 2020. Both studies aim to evaluate various water management options, assess current and future water supply capabilities of reservoirs, and evaluate alternatives to address water supply issues facing the study areas.
The OWRB met with the City of Langston and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in 2019 to present results of recently completed bathymetric studies to determine how the information could be used for water planning and permitting. Additional yield studies will be completed at Greenleaf Lake in 2020.
Water & Wastewater System Financing
As the State's primary water and wastewater infrastructure financing agency, the OWRB has provided over $4.4 billion in financing to Oklahoma communities, rural water districts, schools, and other authorities at an estimated savings of $1.4 billion over conventional bond financing.
The success of the program is due to the continued achievement of AAA bond ratings, an extremely strong loss coverage score, management and oversight of the program, and a long history of borrower repayment.
The programs protect the health and safety of Oklahomans by providing funding to meet the critical need for safe drinking water supplies and adequate wastewater treatment.
In 2019, the OWRB approved 30 loans and 15 grants totaling $352 million to fund public water/wastewater infrastructure improvements with an estimated savings of $105.8 million as compared to traditional financing.
Cumulative Investments in OWRB Infrastructure Financing
Cumulative investments in OWRB infrastructure financing. Since 1984, the OWRB has leveraged $115 million in state funds and $709 million in federal funds with $2.23 billion in bonds to expand available financing for infrastructure projects in Oklahoma communities.
In cooperation with the Oklahoma Rural Water Association (ORWA), the OWRB provided 64 training sessions and 103 technical assistance visits to communities during 2019. Additionally, through partnerships with the ORWA and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the OWRB funded nearly 1600 hours of long range sustainability planning and technical assistance associated with that planning.
The OWRB ensures the safety of more than 4,700 dams across the state as directed by the Oklahoma Dam Safety Act. Additionally, OWRB staff maintain Oklahoma's portion of the National Inventory of Dams, oversee approval for construction or modification of structures, coordinate breach inundation mapping, inspect low hazard-potential dams, and provide public outreach and training.
In 2019, the OWRB approved 22 applications to construct, repair, or modify dams. The OWRB Dam Safety Program hosted a slope stability workshop in July, which was attended by forty four engineers representing private firms, universities, local, state and federal government agencies. OWRB staff provided dam inspection reports to 17 dam owners for 22 dams.
NRCS, State, and privately owned dams under the jurisdiction of the OWRB's Dam Safety program.
The OWRB acts as the State Floodplain Board and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) coordinating agency as directed by the Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act. The OWRB assists communities in reducing costly flooding risks to life and property by developing flood risk products such as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, and with an education and outreach program which provides information on the NFIP and conducts floodplain management training workshops for local floodplain administrators.
The OWRB worked closely with communities throughout the state in 2019 to identify flood risks and update flood maps through FEMA's Cooperating Technical Partners (CTP) program. Currently six studies involving eight watersheds and 45 miles of stream channel are underway. Through the Community Assistance Program, OWRB staff conducted 15 new Community Assistance Visits (CAVs), 50 Community Assistance Contacts, and provided over 200 general technical assistance requests.
Well Driller & Pump Installer Licensing
The OWRB protects Oklahoma's groundwater from contamination by ensuring the integrity of water well construction through the licensing of well drillers and pump installers as directed by Oklahoma Statutes. Currently there are 376 active well drillers and pump installers licensed by the OWRB. The OWRB frequently assists drillers with required well log reporting; more than 198,500 well logs are available to the public online.
In 2019, the OWRB cooperated with the Oklahoma Ground Water Association to conduct 5 continuing education training sessions for drillers to meet licensing requirements. The OWRB continues to work with the Well Driller Advisory Council and stakeholders to develop, update, and advance water well drilling rules.
Water Quality Standards, Monitoring, & Lake Restoration
The OWRB is designated by Oklahoma statute as the agency responsible for promulgating Oklahoma’s Water Quality Standards (WQS), which have been developed in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act. In 2019, the OWRB continued assisting in the implementation of the WQS in other state agencies, administering the statewide beneficial use monitoring program (BUMP), and administering the statewide program for assessing, monitoring, studying, and restoring Oklahoma lakes. During the year, the OWRB continued monitoring at 40 lakes, 84 stream sites, and more than 1,000 groundwater wells across the state. Additional monitoring projects included bathymetric mapping of lakes across the state and real-time monitoring in the Grand/Neosho River Watershed. The OWRB continued its partnership with the USGS to manage Oklahoma's Cooperative Stream Gaging program; these data are used to meet compliance with four federal interstate stream compact agreements and to guide the management of local and regional public water suppliers, including flood and drought planning, early warnings, and emergency operations.
Water Resource Mapping
The OWRB uses standard and customized GIS applications to create, analyze, and display water-related spatial data and make it available to the public. In 2019, OWRB GIS staff developed online dashboards for permit applications and Financial Assistance loans and grants. In addition to maps, the dashboards include tables, charts and graphs to make it easier to understand the data. The OWRB continued to map water, wastewater, stormwater, and water reuse infrastructure for small public water and wastewater systems, making the data available to the systems on secure map viewers.
Interstate Stream Compact Commissions
The OWRB continued to represent Oklahoma's interests on four separate interstate stream compact commissions regarding all the surface waters that flow into or out of the state. The compacts are written agreements among or between Oklahoma's neighboring states that have been approved by the US Congress, enacted in Federal statutes, and enacted in the statutes of each state.