Mission & Responsibilities
The mission of the OWRB is to manage, protect and improve Oklahoma’s water resources to meet long-term water supply, water quality, flood mitigation, and infrastructure needs.
Our primary responsibilities include water use appropriation and permitting, water monitoring, financial assistance for water/wastewater systems, dam safety, floodplain management, water supply planning, technical studies and research, and water resource mapping.
Julie Cunningham has served the Oklahoma Water Resources Board since 1994 in technical, policy, and executive capacities in all divisions. As Executive Director, Julie leads the agency in accomplishing its complex mission of planning for and developing the state’s water resources and administering multi-billion-dollar infrastructure financing programs to foster water supply reliability and economic and environmental resiliency. Julie is past president of the Association of Western State Engineers and Interstate Council on Water Policy, Secretary/Treasurer of the Western States Water Council, and Commissioner on four interstate river compacts. Julie is passionate about transforming the water industry and state policies and services to promote innovation, efficiency, and opportunity for Oklahomans. She is an Oklahoma City native and Oklahoma State University alumnus.
Cleve Pierce, Division Chief
OWRB Administration provides support to the agency
through Public Information, Geographic Information System Services, Financial Management, and Human Resources. Public Information staff respond to information requests from the public and State Legislature; promote and support agency programs by developing various publications; coordinate the annual Governor's Water Conference and numerous other agency activities and events; and develop and maintain the agency's website. GIS staff develop and manage agency GIS databases, applications, and interactive maps. Financial Management staff are responsible for the agency's accounting, inventory, payroll, purchasing, and budget preparations. The Human Resources office coordinates employee recruitment, training, benefits, and other personnel-related services and special projects for the agency.
Yohanes Sugeng, Division Chief
The Engineering and Planning Division is responsible for coordinating state floodplain management and flood hazard mitigation activities and administering the state dam safety program. The OWRB is the state agency specifically authorized to plan for and encourage the use of water resources in a manner that will best serve the many needs of the people of Oklahoma, which is currently being accomplished through implementation of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan. The agency routinely participates in cooperative planning studies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Geological Survey.
Joe Freeman, Division Chief
In answer to the growing need for infrastructure improvements in Oklahoma, the Board's Financial Assistance Division administers a successful, long-standing loan and emergency grant program to fund the construction or rehabilitation of community water and wastewater projects. This program is backed by the Statewide Water Development Revolving Fund, capitalized by the State Legislature in 1979. The Revolving Fund is the key reason why the Board's loan programs can offer such extremely competitive interest rates and convenient payback terms. The Division also directs two separate loan programs that provide federal Clean Water Act and Drinking Water Act funds for community wastewater and water treatment/distribution projects, respectively. A fifth funding strategy, the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grant program, is specifically geared to the water/sewer project needs of Oklahoma's small towns. Applicants eligible for water/wastewater project financial assistance vary according to the specific program's purpose and requirements, but include towns and other municipalities with proper legal authority, various districts established under Title 82 of Oklahoma Statutes (rural water, master/water conservancy, rural sewage and irrigation districts), counties, public works authorities and/or school districts. Special programs are available for small and/or impoverished communities. Applications for agency financial assistance programs are evaluated individually by agency staff. Those meeting specific program requirements are recommended by staff for approval at monthly meetings of the nine-member Board.
Chris Neel, Division Chief
The Water Rights Administration Division administers permitting programs for use of the state's surface water and groundwater. Each year, staff process hundreds of water use permit applications, which are considered for approval by the nine-member Water Board or Executive Director, in the case of 90-day provisional temporary and “limited quantity” permits, and administer and maintain approximately 13,000 stream and groundwater use permits on file at the agency as well as annual reports of water use by all permit holders. In support of the permitting programs, staff routinely conduct and update studies of the state's 49 stream systems and 71 groundwater basins, which are used to dictate the amounts of water that may be reasonably withdrawn while generally reserving supplies for future use, and cooperate on a variety of water resource studies and monitoring programs in cooperation with federal and other state agencies, organizations, and local governments. Division staff also issue licenses for pump installers and drillers of water, geothermal, observation and monitoring wells in Oklahoma and maintain well driller logs.
Bill Cauthron, Division Chief
Water Quality Division staff develop and maintain the Oklahoma Water Quality Standards (OWQS) and routinely collect physical, chemical and biological data to support the document. The OWQS are updated at least every three years and serve to enhance the quality of state waters, protect their beneficial uses (assigned activities that a surface water may be reasonably used for), and aid in the prevention, control and abatement of water pollution. Staff conduct research to support new and revised criteria considered during the OWQS rules revision process or expansion of the document, such as development of groundwater quality standards. Division staff also direct Oklahoma's Beneficial Use Monitoring Program (BUMP) to document beneficial use impairments, identify impairment sources (if possible), detect water quality trends, provide needed information for the OWQS, and facilitate the prioritization of pollution control activities. As part of its three-tiered Clean Lakes Program, staff conduct water quality assessments to determine the relative health of state lakes and the problems impairing them and implement diagnostic and feasibility studies to restore the recreational benefits of public lakes throughout the state. Division staff also participate with municipal governments and federal agencies to assess and control various water quality problems impacting Oklahoma waters.
The OWRB Strategic Plan is a dynamic, "living" document that not only provides direction for the agency, but demonstrates the substantial commitment and dedication of agency staff in providing safe and dependable water supplies for all Oklahomans, both today and in the future.
Government Transparency Act of 2019 Reports
The Oklahoma Water Resources Board shall publish, in this location and on the documents.ok.gov website, a report regarding all applicable Memorandum of Understanding or Memorandum Agreements entered into after November 1, 2019, pursuant to 74 O.S. Section 3122.
Commitment to Research
The OWRB actively engages in research regarding Oklahoma's water resources. The OWRB's monitoring program has a long established history of quantitative data collection from many of Oklahoma's rivers and lakes. This information is utilized to develop Oklahoma's water quality standards. Groundwater research is also conducted by the OWRB to obtain both quality and quantity data to classify the state's aquifers and determine the amount of water available for appropriation. Other state governmental organizations rely on OWRB data to regulate and aid industries and municipalities in Oklahoma.
Comments or Site Problems
If you have any questions or comments regarding OWRB activities or programs, including problems with this website, please contact the OWRB. For complaints, visit the Citizen Complaints page.