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Oklahoma Water Resources Board moves to lower withdrawal limits from Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board took steps Tuesday to lower the amount of water that can be removed in a single year from the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer in southern Oklahoma.
by Andrew Knittle Published: March 14, 2012

Scalf says Ada draws most of its drinking water from Byrd's Mill Spring and that he supports any regulatory actions that aim to protect that source.

“It's what the science calls for,” he said. “It's what we need ... because we're in this for the long run.”

Lewis Parkhill, mayor of Tishomingo, agrees that protecting the streams and springs fed by the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer is paramount for the smaller cities that rely on them for drinking water.

Tishomingo, which has a population of roughly 3,000, draws all of its municipal water from the aquifer-fed Pennington Creek.

Like most other cities in the region, Parkhill says Tishomingo would be hard-pressed to find another sustainable source of water if Pennington Creek dried up or stop flowing at an acceptable level.

“The aquifer is the only economical way people down here can get water,” he said.

“Getting water another way, for us, would be very expensive and it would be complicated because our other options are not good.”

Parkhill said Pennington Creek got pretty dry in the protracted drought of the 1950s, and he doesn't doubt it could happen again.

“In 1955, I believe, Pennington Creek did not have the capacity to supply the water needs of the city for a period of time,” Parkhill said.

“From what I've heard, a local farmer with a good well was all they had. People apparently were taking their jugs and filling them up, that's the story I got.”

Concern from others

While some don't have a problem with the water board's proposed maximum annual yield limits, others see it as a potential threat to their business operations.

Scott Dewald, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, said his organization has “a lot of good producers” in the areas subject to the water board's proposed water withdrawal limits.

Dewald said most of the cattle producers in the counties in question are smaller, cow-calf operations.

“But our producers are concerned any time they start talking about deteriorating their water rights,” he said.

“Most of them — I can't go out on a limb and say all of them — are extremely conservative with their water already.

“And the new maximum annual yield they've proposed, well, it could make it significantly more difficult for them.”

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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