During the more than 30 years that I have worked with the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, one thing has been consistently clear: We can never step back and say we have sufficient water resources and that the work of protecting our water is finished.
If we remain diligent, there will always be work to do. Our population is growing, and with it the demand for clean water. The Illinois River, the most renowned of Oklahoma’s six designated scenic rivers, has been my home throughout the years I have been blessed to serve the state of Oklahoma. Two things I have observed concern me more now than ever before. First, people have a tendency to take clean water for granted. Second, most people know very little about the importance of our state’s rivers.
Oklahoma claims more than 78,000 miles of rivers. There is no resource more important to our state than these rivers and the water that runs through their reaches.
About a month into the recent 2nd Session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature, I found myself in lengthy discussion with Sen. Ron Justice and former Secretary of the Environment Gary Sherrer about the importance of water.
My intention was to impress upon them that while most Oklahomans recognize the necessity of good, clean and reliable sources of water in order to grow the food we eat, nourish our bodies, and provide for the varying uses to support our schools, businesses, industries, and overall economy, many have never paused to consciously consider the value of water.
The majority of us take for granted that each time we turn on the faucet of a sink, a bathtub, a drinking fountain or other water conveyance, water will flow therefrom endlessly. The majority of us don’t really worry about the availability of water, although on a daily basis every one of us depends upon water for our very existence. We have yet to admit to ourselves this simple fact: although water may be a renewable resource, clean water suitable to sustain us is already becoming scarce.
Protection of the Illinois River and the other five scenic rivers dates back to 1970. It is a state policy to preserve and protect these special rivers.
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