You might think the ongoing drought would cause lawmakers to carefully consider long-term water needs. Instead, state legislators appear headed in the opposite direction.
The Water for 2060 Act passed last year with strong bipartisan support. It included language setting a goal for Oklahoma to consume no more fresh water in 2060 than in 2012. That's only a goal — not a mandate — but state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, finds it “reckless.” He filed House Bill 1562 to repeal that language. HB 1562 got committee approval with bipartisan support.
When presenting the bill, Wesselhoft declared the water goal is “the kind of language that comes out of the United Nations; it's Agenda 21” — immediately before saying he likes some Agenda 21 goals, just not water objectives. Make of that what you will.
But Wesselhoft also argued the conservation goal signals Oklahoma's water needs won't increase in the next half-century, weakening our position in ongoing legal disputes with Texas. That's nonsense. Conservation efforts indicate officials expect demand to eventually outpace supply, not anticipation of unending surplus.
We support repeal of obsolete laws and agree that an unenforceable statutory “goal” is ultimately meaningless. HB 1562's passage won't affect conservation efforts — but lawmakers' dismissive attitude toward long-term planning could.
From the 1950s to 1966, Oklahoma City expanded from 68 square miles to 649 and increased access to and control of water supply. Those actions were driven not by then-current shortages, but primarily by future projected needs. Does anyone today doubt the wisdom of those actions more than 50 years ago?
Lawmakers' short-term thinking on infrastructure needs has already battered the Oklahoma Capitol. Its crumbling exterior now threatens citizens' safety and its eroded sewage pipes pose potential health hazards. Heaven help us if lawmakers apply the same mindset that made the state Capitol a disgrace to Oklahoma's long-term water needs.