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water

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where utility rates are determined by a vote of the people — who aren’t always willing to charge themselves more for water.

Future temperature changes pose serious risks to the climate-sensitive agricultural and energy industries in Oklahoma and other Great Plains states, a new study on the business and economic effects of climate change concludes.

Oklahoma's average summer temperature range is expected to increase from 81.7-83.58°F to 87.0-93.51°F from 2020 to 2099, the report predicts.

Pro-Zak / Flickr Creative Commons

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where water rate increases require a vote of the public. And as StateImpact reported, a proposal to strike that clause from the city’s charter was before the city council on June 18, which would’ve put the change on the November ballot.

Kristina And David / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma’s third largest city is at a water crossroads.

Norman is updating its strategic water supply plan to make sure it has enough to meet growing demand over the next 50 years. And the city council’s choice is between reliance on Oklahoma City and water from southeast Oklahoma, or reusing its own wastewater.

After two years of study and public input, more than a dozen plans were narrowed down to two, portfolio 14 and portfolio 13.

Portfolio 14

A water tower in Norman, Okla.
Melissa Megginson / Flickr Creative Commons

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma that requires water rate increases to be approved through a vote of the people, which at times has stymied attempts to upgrade aging water infrastructure, and makes planning for future expenses difficult.

Cows Graze in Kay County, Okla.
fireboat895 / Flickr Creative Commons

With drought in retreat — at least for the moment — the U.S. cattle herd, which has been severely damaged by shrinking water supplies and withering grazing land in the face of rising demand, might begin to trend back up.

A water tower in Norman, Okla.
Melissa Megginson / Flickr Creative Commons

At a public meeting on Tuesday, residents in Norman — where the water system is stressed due to population growth and age, and drought has taken a toll on already troubled Lake Thunderbird — heard about the city’s two options for water sustainability through 2060.

The Oklahoma Senate
Becky McCray / Flickr Creative Commons

From the start of the legislative session on February 3rd, StateImpact Oklahoma had its eye on what was sure to be a heated issue: the coming expiration of a tax credit for horizontally drilled oil and gas wells. Without action, rates would go from one-percent for the first four years of a well’s life, back to 7 percent.

Kristina and David / Flickr Creative Commons

Norman’s water problems are well documented. From dwindling supplies at Lake Thunderbird — the city’s deeply troubled main source of water — to anoverstressed and aging water treatment plant. Not to mention the outcry over the use of drinking water to drill an oil well with the public under mandatory conservation rules.

Bird Creek in northeast Oklahoma is one of nine streams no longer considered impaired due to high turbidity.
Granger Meador / Flickr Creative Commons

The drought goes on, and resources are strained, but there is some positive news to report about Oklahoma’s water.

Nine streams and creeks are coming off the federal government’s list of impaired waters, and it’s partly because farmers and ranchers are changing the way they grow crops and raise livestock and reduced harmful runoff.

U.S. Drought Monitor

In October 2013, Waurika Lake, a source of water for Lawton, Duncan, and surrounding communities in southwest Oklahoma, was at 44 percent of its conservation pool. As of Tuesday, the water level was at 39.53 percent, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr Creative Commons

When a city needs $150 million over the next half-century for upgrades and repairs to its aging water infrastructure system, its leaders might have to get creative to find the money.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The eastern red cedar tree causes allergies, crowds out other species, guzzles water, and fuels Oklahoma’s most devastating wildfires, including one near Guthrie last week.

And lengthy drought has intensified the problem. But eliminating the tree is complicated by the passive attitude of many landowners, and a state forestry service with little authority.

A water tower in Norman, Okla.
Melissa Megginson / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board uses the state’s good credit to secure loans for communities and rural water districts that need help paying for expensive upgrades to their water systems.

And at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, the board approved a $50.3 million loan to Norman in what Joe Freeman, chief of OWRB’s financial assistance division, calls the “largest single loan request” it’s ever acted on.

One of the upsides to the seemingly endless winter of 2014 was that you had time to think.

And to ask futuristic questions, such as: What will the American Winter of 2114 be like?

Here are some of the answers.

State Rep. Charles McCall (R-Atoka)
Provided / Oklahoma House of Representatives

Representative Charles McCall’s bill to allow counties to impose a tax on sand and limestone mining operations that sell their product elsewhere didn’t make it through the full House by the March 14 deadline.

But McCall, R-Atoka, says he will try again next year.

A gate into a silica sand mining operation near Mill Creek in south-central Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

When Oklahomans apply for a permit from most state agencies to, say, dam a river or build a wind farm, formal public hearings are held before the permit is issued, where evidence is presented, concerns are voiced, and legally binding decisions are made.

K. Latham / Flickr Creative Commons

When Gov. Mary Fallin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in January agreed a north Texas water district could take water out of the Red River using a pump station in Oklahoma, they avoided what could’ve been a long legal battle over the exact location of the state’s southern boundary.

Al Jazeera English / Flickr Creative Commons

Drought and agriculture don’t mix very well. So after three years of intense drought, you might expect rural western Oklahoma communities — where fortunes have traditionally hinged on the condition of wheat crops — to be dying on the vine.

But no. As The Journal Record‘s Brian Brus reports, many of these towns are adapting to a new economy with a little help from the oil and gas industry.

James Rintamaki / Flickr

Determining exactly where the border between Oklahoma and Texas is along the Red River has been a touchy subject for more than a century.

And when it was discovered that one of the pumps that provides water to the North Texas Municipal Water District was actually it Oklahoma, it was shut down, as Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for negotiations.

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