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Oklahoma Water Resources Board issues landmark ruling

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has issued a landmark ruling restricting the amount of water that can be taken from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer to one-tenth of the amount historically allowed.
by Randy Ellis Published: October 28, 2013

Oklahoma previously had always treated groundwater as a “private property right” and surface water as “public property right,” he said.

Historically, the annual default limit for ground water allocation had been 2 acre-feet per acre of land. Only one-tenth of that amount will be allowed in the future, although there will be a transition period, Strong indicated.

Not only does the ruling severely restrict the amount of water that can be exported from the region, it also will have ramifications for some cities and businesses within the region.

Ada, for example, is going to have to pay landowners to obtain water rights to a lot more acreage than it currently has in order to continue to meet the municipal water needs of its citizens, said Carl Allen, Ada's public works director.

Nevertheless, Allen said the city is a supporter of the decision because having a sustainable city water supply is more important than having to pay more for water rights.

“It just makes sense,” Allen said.

There was opposition from some landowners who complained valuable water rights were being taken away without compensation and from some limestone and sand quarry owners who expressed concerns that the new cap could restrict their businesses.

Other ranchers were pleased.

“We're elated,” said Amy Ford, a Durant rancher and president of Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. “We did this legislation out of concern about a potential massive transfer out of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer up to the communities surrounding Oklahoma City.”

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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