In-depth water studies will be performed in three of Oklahoma’s most water-challenged regions to evaluate strategies for avoiding future water shortages, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board announced Thursday.
“These focused studies will be critical to addressing potential water supply challenges not just for water users who are at the greatest risk of shortages in coming decades, but also for the state as a whole,” said J.D. Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
The board developed a watershed map of Oklahoma that divided the state into 82 basins. The three basins selected for the studies are among 12 “hot-spot” basins most likely to experience water shortages within the next 50 years, according to the 2012 update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan.
Sites selected for the studies are Watershed Basin 26, which is part of the Beaver-Cache Watershed Planning Region near Duncan; Basin 38, which is part of the Southwest Watershed Planning Region near Altus; and Basin 51, which is part of the Central Watershed Planning Region located between Yukon and Watonga.
Those three sites were selected because each site has a different type of water challenge, but solutions to those challenges are expected to have applications in other parts of the state, as well, said Cole Perryman, director of communications for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
The study for the basin near Duncan will focus on water conservation practices with an emphasis on public water supply, officials said. It will look at how to use irrigation technology and best practices to become more efficient. Officials also will study current and prospective plumbing codes, investigate a tiered water rate structure and look into the creation of local outreach and educational programs.
The basin near Altus will be analyzed for potential benefits associated with developing a regional water supply system by interconnecting several existing public water supply systems.
The study in the basin between Yukon and Watonga will assess the effectiveness of using water of marginal quality to alleviate water supply shortages. Sources of marginal quality water include recycled municipal supplies, storm water, water that is a byproduct of the oil and gas drilling process, brackish water and water with elevated levels of undesirable elements.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing $230,000 through its Planning Assistance to States Program to pay for the studies, earlier public meetings and the site selection process, Perryman said. Oklahoma Water Resources Board staff members and consultants will conduct the studies.
The studies are part of the state’s Water for 2060 initiative approved by the governor and Legislature in 2012. The initiative established a statewide goal of consuming no more fresh water in 2060 than was consumed in 2012, despite expected growth in the state’s population and economy.