Oklahoma’s draft state water plan to be discussed at local meetings
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Published: 19-Apr-2011

Today (Tuesday, April 19), in the far Panhandle town of Beaver, the first public meeting concerning the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan is being held. This session marks the beginning of a series of meetings on water issues over the next five weeks. 

State water agency officials, along with policy and planning specialists, will be on hand April 26 (Tuesday) in Lone Wolf, April 27 (Wednesday) in Clinton, and April 28 (Thursday) in Enid to share early findings from the 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) Update.

The OCWP Southwest Region planning sessions will be held April 26 at Quartz Mountain State Park near Lone Wolf, the West Central meeting on April 27 at the Custer County Fairgrounds in Clinton, and the Upper Arkansas meeting on April 28 at the Garfield County Fairgrounds (Hoover Building) in Enid. 

The meetings will be hosted by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), the state agency responsible for coordinating the update, and Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute (OWRRI), which was contracted to coordinate the OCWP public participation process.

At each meeting location, a technical session will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. to share information on local water supply systems, infrastructures and related issues. A separate evening session, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., will focus on a proposed state water policy, specifically draft recommendations derived from the public, water user groups, and experts. The interim OCWP draft was officially released by the OWRB in early April for public review and comment. Several OCWP Watershed Planning Region Reports – including reports on the Panhandle, Southwest and West Central regions, which detail current water use as well as future usage scenarios and options to address water issues – are also currently available on the OWRB’s website at www.owrb.ok.gov/ocwp.

According to J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director, these technical reports are the first of their kind. "Collectively, the Watershed Planning Region Reports are an invaluable planning tool that will eventually benefit virtually every Oklahoman in establishing reliable and beneficial water supplies.”

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Strong said, “Each report has been carefully designed to allow the water system operator, farmer, irrigator, and casual citizen to make intelligent and informed decisions concerning the use and sustainability of our most precious natural resource.”

The OWRB encourages those planning to attend the meetings to review beforehand the draft report and associated documents, which present fifty-year projections of water use in the state’s planning regions, options to meet forecasted deficits in supply or related problems, and dozens of water policy recommendations developed by both Oklahoma citizens and stakeholders that will be submitted to the State Legislature upon the plan’s conclusion in February 2012. 

Regional feedback and implementation meetings are scheduled throughout the state in April and May as part of the final stage of the OCWP’s public participation process.

In addition to providing citizens with an opportunity to comment on the recommended policy actions and technical water information contained in the draft OCWP documents and reports, the public will be encouraged to suggest the most practical methods to accomplish those initiatives. Both the afternoon technical session and evening water policy session will utilize an informal format that facilitates more engaging personal contact and information exchange between the public and staff of the OWRB, OWRRI and CDM, the OCWP’s lead engineering firm, who will be available to talk with citizens and answer specific questions about regional and state water concerns. 

Meetings are open to citizens from any region of the state. The public may also submit comments through the OWRRI’s website at http://okwaterplan.info,  email at waterplan@okstate.edu, or by calling 405-744-9994.

The full regional meeting schedule for the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan is as follows: April 19, Beaver; April 26, Quartz Mountain; April 27, Clinton; April 28, Enid; May 3, Tulsa; May 4, Grove; May 5, Stigler; May 17, McAlester; May 18, Antlers; May 19, Coalgate; May 24, Sulphur; May 25, Lawton; and May 26, Oklahoma City.

The largest water use in the Southwest Watershed Planning Region is for crop irrigation; the region comprises 9% of the state’s total water demand. According to OCWP water use projections, by 2060, the Southwest Region is projected to have a total demand for water of 213,100 acre-feet per year (AFY), an increase of approximately 36,100 AFY (20 percent growth) from 2010. The majority of the demand and growth in demand over this period will be in the Crop Irrigation sector, with significant growth also coming from the Oil & gas sector. 

Three basins in the region have been identified by state planners as “hot spots,” or areas where more pronounced water supply availability issues are forecasted to occur.

The largest water use in the Upper Arkansas Watershed Planning Region is for municipal and industrial purposes; the region comprises 7% of the state’s total water demand. According to OCWP water use projections, by 2060, the Upper Arkansas Region is projected to have a total demand for water of 182,770 acre-feet per year (AFY), an increase of approximately 54,190 AFY (42 percent growth) from 2010. The majority of the demand and growth in demand over this period will be in the Municipal and Industrial sector, according to the board’s analysis.

For more information on the water plan, visit the water resource board’s website at www.owrb.ok.gov or call the OWRB at 405-530-8800.

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