NORMAN — 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.
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.”
Any contract with Del City would be subject to approval by the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, he said.
Increasing the city's allocation from Lake Thunderbird when possible would be a temporary means of addressing supply problems, Lewis said.
Norman gets 66 percent of its drinking water from Lake Thunderbird and the remainder from wells. During peak summer months, the city purchases treated water from Oklahoma City to augment its supply.
Oklahoma City is facing its own supply problem, however. On Thursday, Oklahoma City officials announced a mandatory water conservation plan for residents and businesses because of low levels at Hefner, Overholser and Draper lakes. All cities, including Norman, who are Oklahoma City customers during months of peak water usage are subject to the plan, which calls for odd/even watering depending on street addresses.
Norman already implemented a mandatory water conservation plan about two weeks ago that not only requires its customers to water outdoors only on odd/even days, but also prohibits outdoor watering altogether Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Washing cars, trucks and trailers also is prohibited unless it's at a commercial car wash, and no washing or hosing down of buildings, driveways, patios and other paved surfaces is allowed.
Long-range water supply solutions for Norman are being considered in a 2060 Strategic Water Supply Study that is currently under way, Komiske said. The study could be ready as early as late March.
Carollo Engineers Inc. is working with an ad hoc committee to address Norman's water supply needs through the year 2060.
A range of potential water supply sources are being considered including 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.
One of the least expensive options would be a direct link to Oklahoma City's Atoka water line, which would give Norman the ability to buy and pump raw water into Lake Thunderbird.
The conservancy district also is studying the reuse of wastewater effluent “by taking it, treating it and returning it to Lake Thunderbird.”
The effluent could come from the Moore Wastewater Treatment Plant and/or from a future northside treatment plant in Norman.
The Norman City Council recently approved a contract for an engineering study for a northside plant, although no construction date has been set.