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Pennie Embrey / Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy

Members of the House Utility and Environmental Regulation Committee heard outlines Tuesday of different ways to address Oklahoma’s water needs.

Oklahoma Water Resource Board Executive Director J.D. Strong and Deputy Secretary of Environment Tyler Howell suggested a broadly based approach, while former OWRB Executive Director and Environmental Federation of Oklahoma President Jim Barnett told committee members greater infrastructure spending should be considered, but not at the exclusion of other ideas such as conservation and reuse.

Duncan Public Works Director Scott Vaughn
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Duncan’s water supplies are already in bad shape because of the drought. Lake Waurika — Duncan’s main water source — is only about 32 percent full, and city officials are beginning to look toward groundwater as a lake levels continue to drop.

And if it weren’t enough for water supplies to be stretched to their limits, now the water itself is contaminated.

After four years of drought, municipal water storage in in Altus-Lugert lake has dropped to about 10 percent.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An environmental researcher says Oklahoma could benefit by learning how developing countries address water security issues as demand grows and scientists warn of drier years ahead.

The Oklahoman reports that Jim Chamberlain, staff researcher at the University of Oklahoma's Water Technologies for Emerging Regions Center, spoke Friday at the center's annual Water Symposium.

Chamberlain says the water situation in Oklahoma has more in common with that in the developing world than might be obvious.

Cleveland, Oklahoma — population 3,200 — relies on a small reservoir southwest of the city for its water, despite being located on the banks of the Arkansas River.

And a water crisis is brewing there. But the problem can’t be blamed on crumbling pipelines, an obsolete treatment plant, or drought — though more rain is needed. The problem is silt. The Cleveland Reservoir is nearly 80 years old.

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

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine calls it a power grab by an imperial president. U.S. Representative Frank Lucas says it would trigger an onslaught of additional red tape for famers and ranchers in Oklahoma.

Al Jazeera Plus produced a 10-minute video on Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm, which included interviews with worried residents and activists and explored some of the science that has linked the seismic surge to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. 

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Insufficient rains and increasing demand put enormous pressure on Oklahoma’s water resources both on the surface and underground. But it’s also hard to overstate the role evaporation plays in the drought.

The oil and gas industry has been part of the problem, storing tens of millions of gallons of water needed for the hydraulic fracturing process in large, open pits, leaving it to be ravaged by evaporation until the water is needed.

After four years of drought, municipal water storage in in Altus-Lugert lake has dropped to about 10 percent.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Water supplies in southwest Oklahoma are in danger of drying up as four years of drought drag lake levels to record lows. Some communities are scrambling to supplement their current water sources, while others look for new sources — in Texas.

Estimates say Duncan’s main water source — Lake Waurika — could be too low to use by 2016.

The dam at Lake Ellsworth in January 2014.
duggar11 / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, the city council in Duncan discussed moving to Stage 4 water rationing, which would limit outdoor watering to just one day per week. Now, officials in Lawton are instituting tougher city-wide water restrictions.

Eddie Brister, owner of the Beaver's Bend Fly Shop on the southern section of the Mountain Fork River.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

This is the final part of StateImpact Oklahoma’s series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Here are parts one, two, and three.

Debbie Doss, conservationist for the Arkansas Canoe Club, stands on Natural Dam a few hundred feet upstream from Lee Creek in northwest Arkansas.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A narrow rock wall holds back all but a couple of tiny waterfalls that sneak through cracks and flow into Lee Creek. This natural dam is so unique a nearby town in northwest Arkansas was named for it.

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

Duncan will move to a higher water conservation status that will take effect later this fall.

The Duncan Banner reports the Stage 4 rationing won't be enforced until October to give residents time to adjust their water usage.

The city revised that status, which previously prohibited all outdoor water usage, to allow residents to use water outside one day each week.

Residents living north of Elk Avenue will be allowed to water their lawns for nine hours on Wednesday. Those living south of Elk Avenue can do so on Saturdays.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

This is part two of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part one is available here.

Bob Deitrick checks the snaps on his bright orange life vest, crouches and checks all the gear one last time. The Owasso father’s son and his two friends are behind him, impatiently paddling in circles.

A group of Tulsa bartenders prepare for a day on the Illinois River at Diamondhead Resort near Tahlequah, Okla. in 2014.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

This is part one of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the threats they face. 

The six eastern Oklahoma waterways classified as scenic rivers are each examples of the pristine beauty of that part of the state. They’re also tourist magnets. Even on a Monday morning, rowdy Tulsans pile into a bus at Diamondhead Resort and rumble toward the nearest access point into the Illinois River.

The July 29 update of the U.S. Drought Monitor, which doesn't reflect the full impact of this week's rainfall.
U.S. DROUGHT MONITOR

Despite more than 80 percent of the state still being under some level of drought, recent wet weather and below average temperatures continue to reduce the severity and size of drought in Oklahoma.

Christopher Caldwell / Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past week, Oklahoma has secured more than $37 million in federal funding for dam improvements across the state and for water system repairs in communities with aging pipes and treatment plants.

First, on July 18, the federal government announced a national dam assessment and repair program made possible by an “almost 21 fold” increase in funding for watershed rehabilitation under the 2014 Farm Bill. $26.4 million will go to Oklahoma.

Aerial view of Tenkiller Ferry Lake (also known as Tenkiller Lake) and Dam on the Illinois River in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, USA. The lake backs up into Cherokee County. The earth-fill dam was constructed between 1947 and 1952 by the United States Army
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library / Wikipedia Commons

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller announced Friday that Oklahoma will be receiving $26 million of the $262 million federal dollars that are being allotted for dam rehabilitation. This appropriation was achieved through the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is planning in-depth studies to prevent water supply shortages in western Oklahoma.

Planning specialists will study three of the state's twelve "Hot Spot" basins identified in a 2012 water plan as expected to have the most water supply challenges within the next 50 years.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City has been pumping water out of southeast Oklahoma along the Atoka pipeline for 50 years.

U.S. Drought Monitor

All the recent wet weather in western Oklahoma has put a big dent in the severity of the ongoing drought there.

But as one part of the state celebrates above-average rainfall, a state climatologist says eastern Oklahoma — which has been spared the brunt of the drought so far — is getting dryer.

From The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen:

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