water

Mason Bolay climbs into the cab of a tractor on his family's farm near Perry, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States Rule — also known as the Clean Water Rule — attempts to clarify which bodies of water qualify for federal protection — which ones are streams, which ones are tributaries, whether pollution dumped into one stream will trickle into another — that sort of thing.

Craig Nance, owner of Nance Landscaping in Altus, Okla. says he hasn't done a landscaping job in Altus in three or four years because of the drought.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

This May already ranks as one of the wettest in state history, and continues to snuff out the four-year drought that dried up cities in southwest Oklahoma. Water rationing helped keep Duncan, Lawton, and Altus afloat, but those cities are now scaling back their water saving mandates.

Praise And Worry

The dry boat ramp at the Chisholm Trail Ridge Campground on the eastern shore of Waurika Lake.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Before the consistent, heavy rains over the past week, Waurika Lake — the main source of water for Lawton and Duncan — was on the very brink of drying up too much to be used. Years of punishing drought led to the crisis, but what a difference a few days can make.

Kevin Anders, standing at the lectern, who represents Midwest City on the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District board, engaged in an exchange with council members Tuesday about whether he would support the water reuse plan.
Sarah Terry-Cobo / The Journal Record

Tuesday night the city council in Midwest City approved a non-binding resolution rejecting a water proposal that would put treated wastewater back in Lake Thunderbird.

The large reservoir about 10 miles east of Norman is shared by the two communities, as well as Del City. All three draw raw water from the lake, but two city officials disagree over how and where to treat the wastewater in the supply chain.

Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

With concern over drought at a high point and plans to get water from southeast Oklahoma falling through, the City of Norman decided in 2014 to pursue a plan to clean water that has been used by customers and return it to Lake Thunderbird — the city’s main water source — to be used again.

Oklahoma State Capitol
Joseph Novak / Flickr

There’s only about a month left in Oklahoma’s 2015 legislative session, and if bills haven’t made it out of the chamber they started in by now, they’re dead.

A sign along Oklahoma Highway 43 near Sardis Lake.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Moving water from where it’s plentiful to where it’s needed seems like a logical way to meet all Oklahomans’ future water needs. But water transfers are complicated, and not just because they’re expensive  but because communities with lots of water want to keep it. Nothing illustrates this tension better than Sardis Lake.

Welcome to Duncan, Okla. sign.
J. STEPHEN CONN / Flickr Creative Commons

Duncan, Oklahoma has taken some of the worst of the drought these past five years. Stage 5 water rationing is in effect, which means — with few exceptions — a ban on all outside watering.

The current Lee Creek Reservoir near Van Buren, Ark.
Logan Layden / StateImpact

In Oklahoma, the natural beauty of Lee Creek — one of the state’s scenic rivers — is protected by state law. In Arkansas, Lee Creek is an important water source for fast-growing Fort Smith. Now, Fort Smith has a plan to turn Lee Creek into Oklahoma’s next lake, and reignite a dispute that was settled more than 20 years ago.

A Lockheed WC-130B used by U.S. government researchers Stormfury, a cloud seeding research project focused on reducing the strength of hurricanes.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Five years of drought has strangled lakes and reservoirs in southwestern Oklahoma.

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