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Oklahoma has water, but will it be enough to meet needs?

Study finds number of private wells are multiplying in central Oklahoma’s Garber-Wellington aquifer.
by Rick Green Modified: July 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: July 13, 2014
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Oklahoma City planning director Aubrey Hammontree said the city requires subdivisions that rely on well water to have adequate open space to allow rain to seep into the ground and recharge the aquifer. But she noted the city is not in a position to readily assess how much water there is in the aquifer.

“We do the best we can to pace growth with resources we know are there,” she said.

Water shortages

Even though the aquifer as a whole has adequate water, these private wells can sometimes strain supplies in localized areas, depending how much water is being drawn.

“Continued development in areas with higher domestic use potentially may lead to interferences of drawdown between domestic wells,” the study said.

People on wells occasionally call state water officials to complain of a lack of water, particularly during summer drought conditions.

Christopher R. Neel, an OWRB water resources geologist and one of the authors of the study, said these situations can play out in rural subdivisions where each house has a well, it is the height of summer and people are using massive amounts of water on their lawns. This was the case in 2011 when members of a homeowners association in northwest Oklahoma City called the water board to report their wells were going dry.

“They were all pumping trying to keep their lawns green when it was a 115 outside and the grass would go dormant anyway,” he said. “We just tried to educate them to slow your pumping down and water levels will come up a little bit.”

City water

Many people who are not on wells depend on the aquifer because they get their water from city systems that do rely on wells.

Wells feeding the water systems in Edmond and Moore were the biggest users of aquifer supplies, according to the study, completed early this year. The cities of Norman, Mustang, Purcell, Bethany, Midwest City, Del City, Yukon and Nichols Hills were also significant users.

Norman city officials recently decided to rely on Lake Thunderbird, wells and water reuse to meet long-term needs. This means the city will have to continue to drill wells and/or find ways to reopen wells that have been closed. The city will treat well water for arsenic, chromium 6 and other contaminants at a centralized facility.

While such naturally occurring contamination is found in some deep and confined areas of the aquifer, the overall water quality of the Garber-Wellington system is considered very good, Neel said. This particular study looked primarily at water quantity.

Water conservation tips Read the study
by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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USGS, OWRB study: http://ok.water.usgs.gov/projects/coa/

Water conservation tips: http://www.owrb.ok.gov/supply/conservation.php#tips

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