Cities looking to increase water reuse

Although not widely practiced, reusing water is a concept many cities want to expand upon as the resource becomes harder to find and more expensive.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE aknittle@opubco.com Published: October 22, 2011
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“Why do you need potable water to water grass?” Komiske asked. “Wastewater is a product. It's treated, it's relatively clean and to make potable water is expensive.”

In Guymon, water reuse has been ongoing since 1985, according to Wastewater Supervisor Bradley Cawlfield.

The Panhandle region is the state's largest water consumer and Texas County, where Guymon is located, is the county with the highest consumption level in Oklahoma. The area also receives little rainfall and surface water is virtually unheard of as a source, at least in the past several decades.

Cawlfield said the city reuses wastewater by pumping it onto crops such as alfalfa and wheat.

“We get all our water from the ground, so it's very important for us as conservation,” he said. “And it does just fine to sprinkle it on the crops.”

Like the arrangements in Oklahoma City and Norman, the water reuse happening in Guymon involves partnerships.

“We have about 1,400 acres that we could water using it,” Cawlfield said. “About 500 or so of those are owned by the city. The rest are owned by regular farmers.”

Reuse in the future

In the future, reuse will likely become a more popular, and often necessary, way to meet drinking water and irrigation demands — the two biggest in the state.

With this in mind, Komiske said he's part of a committee formed to regulate water reuse in Oklahoma. He's been working with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and others to put rules in place to streamline the process for those entities interested in reusing wastewater.

“There are no rules to allow it,” Komiske said. “If you want to reuse water in Oklahoma, they look at it on a case-by-case basis, so we're starting from scratch every time. We think if it's regulated and people know what they have to do, more people will explore reuse.”

Like most involved with reuse, Weingart said Oklahoma City is looking at ways to expand its program.

“When you compare our reuse program to others in this area, we have a fairly large program and it's the product of forward-thinking city leaders,” he said. “And there's potential for more users. We'd love to do more of it ... we're just waiting for the right opportunity.”

In Guymon, it goes without saying that reuse — or any practice that stretches the region's scarcest and most important resource — will continue to be looked at.

“It's important for us,” Cawlfield said. “Like I said, every bit of water we get is pumped out of the ground.”