Oklahoma Water for 2060 Excellence Awards
In support of the Oklahoma Water for 2060 Act and recommendations by a special advisory council to the Governor and Legislature, the Water for 2060 Excellence Award program was developed to recognize individuals and entities making exceptional contributions to the promotion and implementation of water use efficiency and conservation of Oklahoma’s fresh water resources. Award winners will be acknowledged at the annual Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference. Their innovative solutions and perseverance to increase the security and reliability of our future water supplies will improve the economy and quality of life of all Oklahomans.
Nominations for the 2021 Water for 2060 Excellence Awards are open! Nomination forms for each award category are listed below. All nominations must be received by October 15, 2021.
2019 Award Recipients
Crop Irrigation/Agriculture Production
The Victor Ranch in Ottawa County is consistently utilized by community and statewide conservation professionals to demonstrate the positive impacts that soil and water conservation can have on an agricultural operation. The GRDA, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Ottawa County Conservation District, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Oklahoma Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society have all used the Victor Ranch as a training site.
The Victors' many projects include incorporating cover crops to help reduce runoff of sediment and nutrients with the long term expected benefits of reduced need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally the Ranch has shifted watering systems from utilizing Little Horse Creek to the installation of fifteen watering tanks. This practice increases infiltration rates, which restores hydrology and reduces the potential for flooding in the basin, while at the same time reducing runoff of nutrients, bacteria, and sediment to Grand Lake. Storing excess rainfall in the soil column also helps maintain vegetation and stream flow during drier periods.
The Victors are in the process of completing a thirty year easement with the GRDA to set aside 178 acres that are part of the Little Horse Creek Watershed, where many of Grand Lake's blue-green algae blooms have appeared to originate. This will be critically important for reducing nutrient pollution to the lake. The Victors' willingness to experiment with new ideas, demonstrate new practices, and advocate for more sustainable management are critical to protecting fresh water resources.
At an early age, Mr. Grant was taught about the importance of being a good steward of the land and water. His grandfather showed him an eroding field with muddy water running off the land, and then showed him the clear water running off a field protected by grass. This was the start of his conservation training, which has been passed on from generation to generation.
Jerod McDaniel farms in Texas County. Jerod has studied the effects of low population corn production on his farm for the last four years, converting his corn plant populations from the industry standard to a "flex" corn hybrid. His goal was to obtain a greater yield of grain with fewer plants.
The hybrid yields a bigger ear of corn per plant, which utilizes less water overall for biomass creation and maintenance. Jerod and other participating area growers have been able to show efficiencies of 13 bushels of yield per 1,000 seeds planted, compared with an industry standard of 7-8 bushels of yield per 1,000 seeds planted.
By leveraging the untapped efficiencies of the flex hybrid, Jerod's water usage has remained steady or even declined, and he has been able to produce 25-30% more corn. Jerod believes that if more panhandle corn farmers grew the flex hybrid, the viability of the Ogallala aquifer could be extended.
Jerod is interested in developing even more sustainable water saving ideas for the future, and has been able to highlight his experiences to a broader audience using social media. Through his podcast called "Ag Uncensored" and his Twitter feed, Jerod has crowd-tested his low-population flex corn experience and spread his water saving messages to interested followers around the world. From these conversations, many new ideas and experiences are being shared, which could result in fresh water savings throughout and beyond the Oklahoma Panhandle today and well into the future.
Public Water Supply
Creek County Rural Water District #2 is a small water system near Jenks that serves around 5,200 connections. In October of 2018, the system contacted Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, expressing interest in having a water loss audit conducted. The audit indicated an average 16.8% loss, with a yearly loss of almost 110 million gallons, valued at nearly $195,000!
To address the leaks, the system met with the Rural Water Association for technical assistance and training focused on leak detection. Since then, the system has taken an extremely proactive approach to reducing water loss, utilizing multiple tools and methods simultaneously. They have coupled active leak detection with their GIS mapping software, which tracks leakage and infrastructure data. They have installed a data logger system with telemetry that provides precise information on distribution system performance and leakage location to the system office, and have invested in an advanced ground microphone to locate leaks in the field.
Combining telemetry, remote sensing, and boots-on-the-ground leak detection has proven to be a potent combination for reducing water loss--15 major leaks have been pinpointed and repaired so far, with plans made to address the remaining 10. The latest water loss audit showed the system loss had been reduced to around 5.7%, meaning that 25 million gallons of treated, potable water had been saved in five months' time, at a savings of $170,000.
According to their partners at the ODEQ, the project's success was primarily due to the staff of the system and their positive attitudes toward addressing loss. Today they regularly conduct their own water loss audits and have a designated staff member for locating and repairing leaks. The system is a prime example of what can be accomplished in a short amount of time through cooperation and collaborative partnerships. The ODEQ and Rural Water Association are to be commended as well for their highly effective water loss audit, leak detection and remediation programs that give systems the training and tools to save millions of gallons of fresh water each year for Oklahoma.
The City of Edmond's Coffee Creek Water Resource Recovery Facility Administration and Laboratory Building was designed to promote conservation and reuse of water while providing a resource to the community for education. Multiple educational aspects have been incorporated into the design of the innovative 23,000 square foot building to ensure that customers and the general public understand the function, purpose, and importance of the treatment plant, as well as the importance of water conservation and protecting an urban forest and major watershed.
The building has a green roof, native and adapted plantings, a high efficiency irrigation system utilizing harvested water from a cistern, water efficient plumbing fixtures, LED lighting and dark sky compliant light fixtures, EV charging stations, geothermal ground source heat pumps, photovoltaic panels, and super insulated walls and roof, to name a few of its many impressive features.
By utilizing the rainwater harvesting system, drip irrigation, and natural xeriscaping, the City anticipates saving approximately 47,000 gallons of potable water per year when compared to a traditional spray irrigation design with fescue or Bermuda grass landscaping. The City's ultimate goal was to maximize water reuse to offset potable water demands and help "drought proof" the City's overall water supply.
The facility is available for tours for community organizations and schools. Future plans to enhance the experience include informational videos, an interactive 3D model, and possibly even virtual reality.
2018 Award Recipients
Crop Irrigation/Agriculture Production
Fred Fischer and his family grow wheat, milo and corn on a farm just west of Hooker. Over the past several decades, the farm has been a part of a shift toward using new technology to improve irrigation practices and ultimately make better use of the water they draw from the aquifer.
Mr. Fischer has implemented many practices to reduce waste and improve the ratio of grain produced to water consumed. In 2011, sprinkler monitoring devices were installed on all pivots with GPS integration and variable rate technology, allowing remote control of the basic functions of pivots, including alerts when a system goes down. In 2012, sub-surface drip irrigation was installed in several areas, allowing water to be released 18 inches below the surface. This increased water efficiency greatly by keeping the water from evaporating.
In 2014, multiple years of data from yield maps were combined with mapping of soils and topography across the farm. This data was used to implement variable rate fertilizing, as well as variable rate seeding, which increased yield without increasing water consumption. Improvements and enhancements to the system are ongoing and have been vital to saving water and reducing production costs. According to university studies, the use of these technologies have created about 40% water savings. More bushels of grain are produced with the same amount of water, benefiting the aquifer, Mr. Fischer and local and state economies.
In 2014, Mr. Fischer gave a presentation to the Water for 2060 Advisory Council, discussing ideas for inclusion in their report. Later that year, members were given a tour of his farm to see his irrigation technology in person. Mr. Fischer is one of many Panhandle farmers who have significantly reduced water use by using the latest technologies, and continue to be excellent stewards of their water resources to ensure supplies are available for future generations.
Public Water Supply
Fort Sill purchases potable water from the City of Lawton which is then collected and treated at the Fort Sill Wastewater Treatment Plant to a high quality effluent. Recognizing the value of this effluent, American Water Enterprises had a vision to implement reuse in areas of Fort Sill where its end-use did not require water treated to potable quality. Working with ODEQ, Fort Sill leadership, Evans and Associates, and Garver, American Water implemented a reuse system that connected geothermal units, cooling towers, irrigation systems, and fill points throughout base that operated solely off reuse water.
Additionally, Fort Sill received the State's first ever Category 2 Reuse Permit from ODEQ, which allows unrestricted irrigation of Fort Sill's polo fields, the Cemetery, and Horse Corral. To date, American Water has installed over 4 miles of reuse piping, a purple elevated storage tower, and a pump station to support their reuse program.
By decreasing demand on the City of Lawton's fresh water supply, this project provides the added benefit of helping improve the City's drought resiliency. The project is an excellent example of meeting existing water needs through innovative thinking to decrease fresh water use.
Waurika Lake is a regional surface water supply lake in southwest Oklahoma. The lake was designed to serve both ends of the drought spectrum, including floodwater capture for wet times and water supply for droughts. It directly serves six cities in four counties and indirectly serves up to 11 counties via cities and rural water districts.
The lake experienced severe declines in water-level from the recent multi-year drought period. By the summer of 2013, Waurika Lake's water level had declined to the point that the bottom third of the lake was unavailable for water supply due to sedimentation deposits and the top third of the lake was rapidly becoming unavailable due to evaporation and deteriorating water quality at the static intake. The innovative 30 MGD floating intake gave the water system access to the entire conservation pool and access to the highest quality water in the lake.
The project included removal and replacement of all six intake structure slide gates, dredging sediment in the intake channel, and extending the lower intake structure gates into the middle of the lake. This project directly provided more than 25,000 acre feet of water supply that was blocked by the sediment deposits at the static intake, which is water supply that would have had to come from other sources. As a result, Waurika Lake is now sustainable throughout a drought cycle. The entire lake is now usable and another reservoir will not need to be built.
2017 Award Recipients
Crop Irrigation/Agriculture Production
In 2012, Jimmy Emmons began looking for a new way to farm. A third generation farmer in Leedey, Oklahoma, Mr. Emmons recognized that his land was requiring more and more irrigation and synthetic fertilizers. Jimmy reached out to his contacts in conservation and no-till farming, and scoured the internet for new ideas on how to improve his croplands.
Jimmy befriended USDA-NRCS soil scientist Steve Alspaugh, who encouraged him to try out some small plots of cover crops following wheat. Together, they formulated a conservation plan to improve the health of the soil and reduce input costs. Jimmy selected cover crops that were less water-intensive and good sources of nitrogen. The next year, soil tests and water use analyses showed positive results. In 2014, the project expanded beyond 2,000 cropland acres to include 5,000 rangeland acres. In 2015, Mr. Emmons further reduced his water usage by implementing a rotational grazing system so that his cattle herd fed on the cover crops. This reduced the amount of hay needed to feed the 200-head herd, and, in turn reduced irrigation requirements.
As he learned more about his own operation and soil health systems, Mr. Emmons invited other farmers and ranchers to see the changes and engage in a dialogue about the way we farm and ranch. To date, Jimmy and Ginger Emmons have educated over 1,000 individual producers on their land. Farmers and ranchers have come from as far as Australia, France, and Bulgaria to see the conservation work that they have accomplished in less than five years. Additionally, Mr. Emmons speaks all over the country telling the story of how switching to a soil health based agriculture system has improved the resiliency of his farm.
Pat Long's family has been farming in Texas County since the early 1900s. The Longs grow corn, wheat, soybeans, sorghum, and occasionally sunflowers on 12,000 acres of farmland. Over the years, the Longs have become exemplary water stewards by adapting to new technology and farming methods, significantly reducing their water use while maintaining (and improving) crop production levels.
In 1953 when the Longs drilled their first well, like most other farmers, they relied on earthen dams, siphon tubes, and flood pipe irrigation. By the 1970s, the Longs were producing 100 bushels per acre of corn using flood irrigation, which provided uneven soil coverage and had a high rate of evaporation. Today, the Longs produce an average of 220 bushels per acre using the center pivot with about 90% water efficiency. In 2012, the Longs began growing genetically modified drought resistant corn and installed high tech monitoring systems on their center pivots that send out text notifications if a sprinkler malfunctions. In 2014, the Longs converted all of their irrigated acres to no-till farming for soil health and water conservation, which increased the number of acres irrigated per well and doubled their yields.
As a board member of the Oklahoma Panhandle Agriculture and Irrigation Association (OPAIA), Mr. Long worked with the Panhandle Regional Economic Development Coalition to prepare a comprehensive evaluation of water use. The study showed that while crop irrigation is the largest water demand sector in the Panhandle, thanks to farmers like the Longs, improved farming techniques and conservation practices have decreased the overall amount of water used. The market value of agricultural products sold in the Panhandle has increased while irrigated acres have remained fairly constant.
Energy & Industry
Newfield Exploration Company’s Barton Water Recycling Facility is located in the STACK play of the Anadarko Basin. The facility is a multi-million dollar investment that will connect to seven pits with nearly 6.5 million barrels of storage capacity utilizing more than 70 miles of underground pipeline by the end of 2017. The facility reduces the amount of fresh water needed by extending the lifecycle of each barrel of water produced in their operations through recycling and reuse. The facility was constructed to handle nearly 100 percent of the area’s produced and flowback water. Newfield has invested more than $40 million to date in water management infrastructure in its STACK play. Recycling flowback and produced water ensures more fresh water stays at its source for other community uses. The Barton facility is expected to recycle produced water for years to come, leading to continued water savings for Newfield and the community.
Continental Resources operates four recycling facilities in the SCOOP and STACK Plays, and can recycle 4.2 million gallons of water per day (with a peaking capacity of 10.5 million gallons per day) total at these facilities. Since its inception in 2013, Continental's efforts have resulted in approximately 588,000,000 gallons of recycled water. Continental's ultimate goal is to reduce its fresh water use by approximately 50% within the service areas of its recycling facilities. Additionally, Continental is working with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and other producers to make available its recycling facilities when capacity is available, further reducing the industry's fresh water footprint. Continental continues to work toward identifying and exploring emerging technologies, multi-sector water sharing opportunities, and potential sources of marginal quality waters that might prove suitable for industry operations.
The Low Volume Wastewater Reuse Project at OG&E’s Mustang Station in Oklahoma City reflects a commitment to the responsible use of natural resources including the use of water for power production. In 2013, the OG&E Mustang Station began refining the plant’s wastewater treatment process. The goal was to reuse as much water as possible, thereby alleviating stress on existing fresh water supplies. OG&E initiated reuse of in-plant low volume wastewater (LVW) as a source of cooling tower makeup water. A pump and associated controls were added to the LVW pond, and piping was installed to connect to a cooling tower supply line. This simple but innovative system now allows wastewater, previously discharged to a treatment plant, to be used as recirculated cooling water. By the end of 2016, Mustang Station LVW project had resulted in saving approximately 21 million gallons of fresh water. This project displays OG&E’s proactive commitment to using resources responsibly.
Koch Fertilizer’s Enid facility, one of the largest fertilizer production plants in North America, is undergoing an expansion that will increase its daily water needs from four million gallons per day to six million. Working with the City of Enid, Koch proactively implemented a strategy to lessen the burden these additional water usage requirements would put on the city’s water supply. Installation of new technology will allow Koch to use treated wastewater instead of drinking water for the vast majority of its water needs. The City of Enid and Koch Fertilizer are working together on minor improvements so the full amount of wastewater can be used by Koch, dropping the total potable water demand to around 1 million gallons per day or less.
Public Water Supply
The City of Oklahoma City adopted a Water Conservation Plan to provide guidance for the implementation of individual water conservation and efficiency programs, to analyze and discuss the impact of current programs, and to prepare residents for drought conditions. The plan supports the statewide goal established in the Water for 2060 Act, which emphasizes education and incentives rather than mandates alone. Additionally the plan recommends a multifaceted approach to reach all customer categories through expanded education and local partnerships to continue successful demand management and water use efficiency. The conservation program supports the adoption of water efficient technologies as well as behavioral changes to save water in homes and businesses. The adoption and implementation of the water conservation plan and individual strategies are an ongoing process that will be monitored for water savings and adjusted to ensure real water savings are achieved.
With a service area of approximately 80 square miles, the City of Edmond provides water to more than 84,000 customers. The City’s population is projected to grow to more than 136,000 people by 2060. Water demand for the region is predicted to double. To accommodate the projected increase in demand, the City is doubling its water storage capacity with a new two-million-gallon elevated storage tank. The new storage tank has been designed and situated to work in conjunction with an existing pump station site and repurposed underground storage tank to minimize water loss. As a general rule, water drained from a tower during times of low water usage or for tower maintenance and repair will be released or flushed into a storm drain. This new system allows the City to drain the entire volume of water from the tower into the underground storage tank when necessary and then recirculate that water back into the distribution system. As a result, the City estimates it can save a million gallons of water each year.