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water

Chesapeake Energy employees leave buildings after layoffs were reported Sept. 29, 2015.
Brent Fuchs / Journal Record

The downturn in energy prices dominated the news cycle in Oklahoma in 2015, affecting the bottom line of every oil and natural gas producer, the state’s budget, and had countless trickle-down effects in a state with an economy so reliant on the energy sector.

The price plummet actually started in June 2014, when oil was still above $100 per barrel. They rapidly declined, beginning 2015 at around $55, and currently sit in the $30-40 range.

Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 36th annual Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference in Norman included the usual fare: updates on regional water plans, drought mitigation, and experts from other states sharing their water insights. But Gov. Mary Fallin came with a new idea to save water — and reduce earthquakes.

A dredging barge scrapes the bottom of Wuarika Lake and sends sludge to a holding pit via an underwater pipeline.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s lakes weren’t built to last forever. Over time, dirt and debris are slowly filling them in. Right now, there’s no good way to solve the problem, but cities that rely on Waurika Lake are turning to costly and complicated efforts to save their water supply from silt.

Suzette Grillot and Brian Hardzinski discuss Catalonia's push for independence from Spain, and Russia's "frozen zone" in the troubled region of eastern Ukraine.

Then Rebecca Cruise talks with Peter Lochery. He’s the Director of Water for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, or CARE, and won the University of Oklahoma WaTER Center's 2015 Internaitonal Water Prize.

Peter Lochery delivering a talk at the University of Oklahoma in September 2015.
Jawanza Bassue / The University of Oklahoma

Earlier this year the University of Oklahoma’s Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center awarded Peter Lochery its biennial International Water Prize for his contributions to the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.

Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Tom Buchanan address lawmakers at a legislative study on water Monday, November 2, 2015.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

This spring, Oklahoma faced a problem it hadn’t in a while: too much water. Much of that floodwater flowed into rivers and out of Oklahoma — and that’s sparking big new ideas at the state capitol, and rousing an old fight.

A TOUCHY SUBJECT

Water4's Steve Stewart demonstrates the electricity-free water pump the organization uses in its charitable work in Africa.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s small water systems face a big problem: Drinking water standards are getting stricter, their treatment plants are becoming obsolete, and many cities and towns can’t get the loans and grants needed for expensive upgrades.

Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Norman voters in January approved a water rate increase to pay for much needed improvements at the city’s water treatment plant, and in 2014, the city council decided to meet Norman’s future water needs through reuse and wells, rather than rely mor

FIVEHANKS / Flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempt to update the Clean Water Rule — also known as the waters of the U.S. rule — hit a snag today, with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to temporarily block its implementation.

Downtown Tulsa from the banks of the Arkansas River.
Mike Davis / Flickr

It’s been decades since Tulsa decided the portion of the Arkansas River that runs through the city was too dirty and dangerous to swim in. The river is much cleaner now, but convincing the public it’s OK to hop in won’t be easy.

The Arkansas River is an iconic feature of Tulsa, cutting across downtown and winding through the west side of the city. But it has a bad reputation.

Piles of crushed limestone along railroad tracks near Mill Creek, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma County District Judge Barbara Swinton on Wednesday ordered the long disputed limits on how much water can be taken from one of the state’s most sensitive aquifers — the Arbuckle-Simpson in south-central Oklahoma — to go forward.

The court was hearing an appeal of the limit from groups including the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, Oklahoma Aggregates Association, and mining company TXI — all petitioners in the case.

Several Oklahoma farmers wander through a field of broad-leafed cover crops during a state Conservation Commission workshop in Dewey County in western Oklahoma.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Generations of tilling and planting on the same land have left Oklahoma’s soil in poor shape. And if farmers don’t change the way they grow crops, feeding the future won’t be easy. As Slapout, Okla., farmer Jordan Shearer puts it: “We’re creating a desert environment by plowing the damn ground.”

Taking A Toll

Hugo Lake Dam following recording-breaking rainfall in May 2015.
USACETULSA / Flickr

The company that runs Hugo’s water treatment plant is contesting the $3.17 million fine the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality levied against it for — as the Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reported in August — not using “enough chlorine for more than 300 days over the course of two years.”

A scene from 1967's "Son of Godzilla."
Toho / Sony Pictures

This year’s El Niño might be the strongest ever. The phenomenon — marked by unusually warm waters in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America — means more precipitation could be on the way for Oklahoma. The state’s wheat farmers are hopeful, but know too much rain at the wrong time can be ruinous.

Mike Rosen runs a grain elevator near Kingfisher. He says Oklahoma’s wheat farmers can’t seem to catch a break.

Algae grow on the floor of the pipe room in the Hugo water plant because water leaks constantly, as shown in this late July photo.
Sarah Terry-Cobo / The Journal Record

About 7,000 residents in Hugo lived for months with unsafe drinking water because a private company improperly disinfected municipal water supplies and misreported data to local and state officials.

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