NORMAN — The executive director of the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District — Lake Thunderbird's governing body — says he will send letters in January to Midwest City, Del City and Norman asking them to reduce their water usage from the lake by 10 percent.
Randy Worden said an ongoing drought has dropped the lake level to almost a record low, making water conservation imperative.
Lake Thunderbird provides drinking water for the three cities, although Norman's reliance on the lake exceeds the other two, Worden said.
“Right now, Del City and Midwest City have adequate groundwater supplies to meet any reduction in Lake Thunderbird, so they're in pretty good shape, but Norman is in the worst shape from a water supply perspective,” he said.
Worden discussed the matter with city officials at a conference Tuesday, warning them of the impending reduction.
Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said a 10 percent reduction would mean Norman residents would be asked to take water conservation measures. What measures, and how soon they would be implemented, have not been decided, he said.
The three cities share an allocation of 21,600 acre-feet annually. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre with one foot of water.
Norman has 43.8 percent of the total allocation. Midwest City has a 40.4 percent allocation, and Del City's allocation is 15.8 percent.
Midwest City and Del City do not use the full amount allocated to them each year, but Norman does, utilities engineer Mark Daniels said. Norman also purchases some treated water from Oklahoma City during high usage summer months and relies on 36 wells to supplement its water supply, he said.
Officials are hoping for rain or snow before Jan. 1, which might alleviate the need for a full 10 percent reduction in the allocation levels for Lake Thunderbird, Daniels said.
The lake currently is 7 feet, 2 inches below the minimum conservation pool elevation, Daniels said.
“That's approaching the lowest it's ever been. It's getting pretty desperate,” Daniels said.
Oklahoma is experiencing an extreme to exceptional drought that has been ongoing for about two and a half years, Worden said. Predictions are that the drought could continue and intensify, he said.
“It is a serious drought. Everybody knows it is serious. There's some talk it may be shaping up to be a 1950s type drought, the drought of record in Oklahoma,” he said.
The conservancy district is involved in studies to identify alternate water sources for central Oklahoma, Worden said.
Federal legislation that would allow the importation of water to Lake Thunderbird from outside sources — other existing lakes or lakes that have yet to be constructed — has passed the U.S. House of Representatives but is stalled in a U.S. Senate committee, he said.
Hope is dwindling this year that it will get passed, he said, “but we view this legislation as critical to our water supply needs here in central Oklahoma.”
If it doesn't pass this year, supporters will renew efforts next session to get the legislation adopted, Worden said.
The conservancy district also is studying the reuse of wastewater effluent “by taking it, treating it and returning it to Lake Thunderbird.”
The best option would be to phase in treated effluent from both the Moore and Norman wastewater treatment plants, he said.
Daniels said Norman also is working on a 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan to address Norman's water supply needs for the next 40 to 50 years.
Officials are evaluating a range of potential water supply sources that include the Kiamichi River or Sardis Lake in southeast Oklahoma, Kaw Lake in north central Oklahoma, Scissortail Lake, west of Ada, and Parker Reservoir, east of Ada. Scissortail Lake and Parker Reservoir have been proposed but not built.