Norman considers 'borrowing' water from Del City to bolster supply

Norman officials say they would like to increase their water allocation from Lake Thunderbird by “borrowing” from Del City's allocated, but unused, supply.
by Jane Glenn Cannon Published: January 21, 2013
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Norman officials are in negotiations with Del City to “borrow” some of its unused allocated water rights at Lake Thunderbird.

Officials hope to increase its allocation on a temporary basis to supplement Norman's supply, which has dwindled because of an ongoing drought.

City Manager Steve Lewis said Del City has indicated a willingness to help Norman “but, of course, they have to protect their own city so discussions are centering on how to word the contract.”

More than likely, it would be a five-year contract with stipulations written into it to protect Del City's first-rights to the water, Lewis said.

Drought worries

Norman, Midwest City and Del City rely on Lake Thunderbird for a water supply, supplemented by water wells.

The executive director of the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, the lake's governing body, recently sent a letter to each city ordering them to cut back usage from the lake by 10 percent due to low lake levels and a drought that is expected to continue and possibly intensify.

The three cities share an allocation of 21,600 acre-feet of lake water annually. Norman has 43.8 percent of the total allocation. Midwest City has a 40.2 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 Director Ken Komiske said Norman would pay a set amount to Del City for its unused allocation, although that amount has not been determined.

“The discussions are more informal at this point,” he said.

Del City and Midwest City officials have said the recent reduction in usage from Lake Thunderbird will not adversely affect their communities.

A system of deep wells in both cities allows them to increase well water use, reducing their reliance on lake water, Lewis said.

Del City's city manager, Mark Edwards, said contract terms would allow Norman to draw on that city's unallocated water portion “as long as the water is there. But, of course, if we get no rain and the drought continues, it won't be there for them to use.”

Del City has 13 wells that supply most of that community's water, Edwards said.

“Written into the contract would be a stipulation that if two or more of our wells were to go down, then Norman could not access our allocation,” he said. “We recognize that Norman has its back to the wall, and we'll help if we can, but I have to protect my city first.”

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by Jane Glenn Cannon
Senior Reporter
A native of Oklahoma, Jane Glenn Cannon is an award-winning reporter who has covered everything from crime, courts and government to entertainment and features. She wrote a popular personal column for many years. She is a former associate writer...
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