WASHINGTON — As Norman residents prepare for rare winter water rationing because of low levels at Lake Thunderbird, President Barack Obama on Thursday signed legislation that will allow officials to augment the water supply at the lake.
The bill, which gained final Senate approval in the waning hours of the 2012 session, would allow the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, which operates and maintains the lake under contract with the federal government, to purchase water from Oklahoma City's Atoka Reservoir.
Obama's signature came two days after the Norman City Council approved measures to ban outdoor watering and irrigation on some days and limit it on others.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, who helped obtain Senate approval just before the session ended, said when it passed, “Lake Thunderbird was built to provide safe, clean water to a dry region, but due to the rapid growth of surrounding communities and the recent years of drought, the lake's supply has not been able to meet regional demand.
“This legislation ensures Lake Thunderbird will continue to provide the water resources necessary to support ongoing economic growth in the Oklahoma City region.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who got the bill through the House last summer, said, “After another year of drought, it's more important than ever to ensure Central Oklahoma has a reliable supply of water.
“Bringing more water to Lake Thunderbird is a commonsense solution that costs taxpayers nothing.”
The legislation was necessary because the federal law that established the lake and a dam didn't provide for water transfers from outside of the basin.
Norman, Midwest City and Del City get water from the lake.
The cost of any water purchased would be borne by the conservancy district.
The bill does not increase the capacity of the lake.
In comments after the bill passed, Midwest City Mayor Jack Fry said, “This legislation has been very much needed to avoid a possible crisis.
“The Conservancy District's ability to purchase water as a result of a drought or transfer water from other areas would be impossible without this legislation. This will provide the opportunity to avoid future problems of water supply.”
After another year of drought, it's more important than ever to ensure Central Oklahoma has a reliable supply of water.
Rep. Tom Cole,