Governor Mary Fallin addresses a full house during the 2018 Oklahoma Governor's Water Conference, touting the successes of the OCWP, Water for 2060, the Tribal settlement, and the Produced Water Working Group, and challenging the crowd to keep water a priority for all Oklahomans. Seated left to right: Secretary Jim Reese, Secretary Michael Teague, OWRB Chairman Jason Hitch, OWRB Executive Director Julie Cunningham, and Fred Morgan, President & CEO of the Oklahoma State Chamber.
Working closely with Governor Fallin and the state legislature, the OWRB developed new rules to increase available groundwater and water storage options. House Bill 3405 authorizes the state to issue permits for well construction and withdrawal of marginal quality groundwater. The definition of "groundwater" was expanded to include water with greater concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS), and a new definition was added for "marginal water," which includes water that has 5,000 or greater and less than 10,000 parts per million TDS.
The OWRB enacted new rules for implementing the agency's authorized regulation of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) activities. All ASR activities are now to be conducted pursuant to a site-specific plan approved by the OWRB. Following the issuance of an ASR permit, the OWRB will require annual reporting by the permit holder. The OWRB can suspend or cancel ASR permits for non-compliance.
The Produced Water Working Group, coordinated by the OWRB, continued to identify regulatory, technical, and economic options to allow and promote the reuse of produced water. The group is currently considering ways to characterize and inventory brackish water production zones. Industry partners have agreed to contribute data for a pilot project in Kingfisher County.
The OWRB conducted a water planning meeting with Chickasaw and Choctaw representatives to discuss federal funding opportunities and the coordination of technical staff and advisory teams. The OWRB will host a field training session for new Tribal field personnel in the summer of 2019.
The OWRB continued to assist the Grand River Dam Authority with its multi-year regional water plan to improve water management in the region and increase access to water for public water supply, irrigation, recreation, wildlife habitat, and hydropower uses.
Water Rights Administration
The OWRB appropriates fresh water resources as directed by Oklahoma statutes. Currently, there are 13,288 active long-term permits for more than 6.83 million acre-feet per year. The OWRB's permitting staff issued 75 groundwater permits in 2018 totaling 27,853 acre-feet, and 64 stream water permits totaling 106,996 acre-feet, along with 1,461 provisional temporary permits totaling 71,000 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.
The OWRB completed the Rush Springs Aquifer study in 2018, along with a companion report by the US Geological Survey (USGS) on the Rush Springs Aquifer groundwater flow model. The OWRB is currently conducting twenty-year updates of the Elk City Sandstone, Vamoosa-Ada, and the Gerty Sand aquifers, as well as investigations on the Cimarron Alluvium and Terrace and Blaine aquifers.
The OWRB is conducting investigations on the Roubidoux, Boone, Salt Fork of the Red River, Washita River Reach 1, and the Salt Fork of Arkansas River aquifers through contracts with the USGS..
To allow for flexibility in implementing MAY and Equal Proportionate Share (EPS) for groundwater basins, Senate Bill 1294 modified Oklahoma Groundwater Law, giving the OWRB discretion to delay or to gradually implement annual withdrawal limits when it determines MAY and EPS if 25% or less of the MAY has been allocated. Any delayed or gradual implementation of withdrawal limits will be accomplished through temporary permits and will not affect regular groundwater permits. Additional changes include authorization of the OWRB to enact well spacing rules over a groundwater basin prior to setting a MAY and EPS, which adds protection for existing domestic and permitted wells. Finally, new language states that subsequent or updated hydrologic surveys on already-studied groundwater basins will not affect previously-issued regular permits for groundwater use.
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 2020. 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 2019.
The OWRB completed dependable yield studies of three sole-source supply lakes for the communities of Hominy, Langston, and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in 2018. The OWRB performed bathymetric studies (lake floor contours) to get an accurate volume of the lakes at any water level. CH2M engineers, funded in part by the US Army Corps of Engineers Planning Assistance to States grant, used this data and OWRB historical use reports to estimate the amount of water these communities can rely upon in the worst drought on record to plan their future projects accordingly. The OWRB will meet with these water systems in the spring to discuss study results.
Water & Wastewater System Financing
As the State's primary water and wastewater infrastructure financing agency, the OWRB has provided over $4.1 billion in financing to Oklahoma communities, rural water districts, schools, and other authorities at an estimated savings of $1.3 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 2018, the OWRB approved 32 loans and 15 grants totaling $286.2 million to fund public water/wastewater infrastructure improvements with an estimated savings of $22.4 million as compared to traditional financing.
Cumulative Investments in OWRB Infrastructure Financing
Cumulative investments in OWRB infrastructure financing. Since 1984, the OWRB has leveraged $114 million in state funds and $640 million in federal funds with $2.15 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 62 training sessions and 154 technical assistance visits to communities. Additionally, through partnerships with the ORWA and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the OWRB assisted with long-range system planning for three communities.
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.
NRCS, State, and privately owned dams under the jurisdiction of the OWRB's Dam Safety program.
In 2018, the OWRB approved six applications to construct, repair, or modify dams. The OWRB and Oklahoma Real Estate Commission partnered to increase dam safety awareness in the real estate community by adding new language in the real estate disclosure form. OWRB dam safety workshops were attended by more than 100 real estate agents, local officials, dam owners, and engineers. OWRB staff provided breach inundation maps and inspection reports to 20 dam owners.
The OWRB acts as the State Floodplain Board and the National Flood Insurance Program coordinating agency as directed by the Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act. The OWRB assists communities in reducing costly flooding risks to life and property by updating flood maps through FEMA programs and providing opportunities for training and accreditation of local floodplain administrators.
The OWRB worked closely with communities throughout the state in 2018 to identify flood risks and update flood maps through FEMA's Cooperating Technical Partners program. OWRB staff conducted 10 new Community Assistance Visits (CAVs) and 50 Community Assistance Contacts, successfully closed 31 outstanding CAVs and doubled the local floodplain administrator accreditation rate.
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 308 active well drillers and 378 pump installers licensed by the OWRB. The OWRB frequently assists drillers with required well log reporting; more than 190,000 well logs are available to the public online.
In 2018, the OWRB cooperated with the Oklahoma Ground Water Association to conduct 14 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
The OWRB promulgates Oklahoma's Water Quality Standards (WQS) as directed by Oklahoma Statutes. The WQS have been developed in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act. In 2018, proposed amendments to Oklahoma's WQS included a comprehensive revision of Oklahoma's antidegradation implementation guidance. The guidance updated implementation for all waterbody tiers. Additionally, the OWRB created implementation rules for designating waters for Sensitive Water Supply–Reuse.
To begin implementing the recommendations from the recently completed Second Joint Study on the Illinois River Watershed, Oklahoma and Arkansas signed a Memorandum of Agreement outlining measures necessary to protect scenic river designations and overall stream health. As part of this agreement, the states will develop a Monitoring and Assessment Workgroup. Additional partners include the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Grand River Dam Authority, and Cherokee Nation.
Water Monitoring and Lake Restoration
The OWRB administers the statewide beneficial use monitoring program (BUMP) as directed by Oklahoma Statutes, and acts as the lead agency for administering a statewide program for assessing, monitoring, studying, and restoring Oklahoma lakes. The OWRB submits a biennial report to the Oklahoma Legislature, also directed by Oklahoma Statutes, discussing the status of water quality monitoring in Oklahoma.
The OWRB partners 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.
In 2018, the OWRB conducted monitoring on 40 lakes, 84 stream sites, and more than 1,000 groundwater wells across the state. Additional monitoring projects during the year included the assessment of baseline characteristics of riverine and oxbow lakes, watershed stormwater monitoring at Lake Thunderbird, watershed and in-lake monitoring at Lake Arcadia, bathymetric mapping of lakes across the state, and real-time monitoring in the Grand/Neosho River Watershed.
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 2018, OWRB staff began using web-based GIS applications to record water level measurements and other data in the field, improving efficiency and reducing the chance for errors. OWRB GIS specialists developed and refined automated workflows to assist in the water rights permitting process. 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 represents 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.
In 2018, the OWRB received its third consecutive Certified Healthy Business Award and its sixth consecutive Top Workplaces Award (based on anonymous employee surveys).