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water

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.

OWRB water resources geologists Derrick Wagner and Jessica Correll analyze readings from their well at the Spencer Mesonet station.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Almost half of the water used by Oklahomans comes from aquifers, and four years of drought increased that reliance. This year’s record-setting rainfall filled up the state’s lakes, but recharging aquifers doesn’t happen so quickly.

USACETULSA
Flickr

The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System that connects the Port of Catoosa — the nation’s furthest inland seaport — to the Gulf of Mexico is “a hell of a mess” after the area got nearly 20 inches of rain in May and June, port director Bob Portiss tell’s the Tulsa World.

The Newt Graham Lock and Dam near Inola, Okla.
Tyler / Flickr

Slow moving storms that dumped record amounts of rain on Oklahoma in April and May killed the five-year drought, but damaged wheat crops in western Oklahoma. This after one of the worst wheat harvests on record in 2014.

James Gaylor plays in a tributary of the Illinois River near Tahlequah, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

When Governor Mary Fallin signed the $7.1 billion budget earlier this week, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission took a big cut. It’s a small state agency with a big job: overseeing hundreds of miles of river and roads in northeast Oklahoma with dwindling resources.

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

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.

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