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water

Lake Texoma's Denison Dam.
Robert Nunnally / Flickr Creative Commons

Lake Texoma is really feeling the effects of the ongoing drought. Water levels have been dropping, many boat ramps lead to dirt, and some slips are grounded.

That reduces the number of people using the lake for recreation, and hurts the economy of a part of Oklahoma very much dependent on tourism.

Retired Col. Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, stands in front of a dam at Lake Eufaula.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The fact that lakes in eastern Oklahoma are full, and last year was wetter than normal for many areas of the state makes some people think the three-year drought is over.

Those people would be wrong, according to state Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague.

Teague joined Oklahoma Water Resources Board Executive Director J.D. Strong Friday at the state capitol for a press conference updating the state’s drought situation.

The Italian Voice / Flickr Creative Commons

Lake Texoma’s level was about 609 feetlast week, down from 612 feet two months ago. The lake can only be used for hydropower until levels drop to 590 feet.

Ed Brocksmith, co-founder of the advocacy group Save the Illinois River, says clearer water doesn't mean the poultry industry should be off the hook.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Former State Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas poultry industry in 2005.

His claim: Chicken waste was polluting the Illinois River with phosphorous. Arguments ended in 2009. Since then: nothing. The judge still hasn’t ruled.

Relief is finally arriving for the 300,000 or so people in nine West Virginia counties who haven't been able to drink, cook or clean with their tap water for more than four days.

Officials announced at noon Monday that tests show the level of a potentially harmful chemical have fallen to the point where the water can be turned back on. But, they cautioned that the process of bringing customers back on line will take several days and has to be done systematically.

Logan Layden talks with Kiowa historian 'Joe Fish' DuPoint about the potential impact of limestone mining on Longhorn Mountain in August 2013.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The StateImpact team traveled about 10,000 miles in 2013 to interview Oklahomans about how government policy affects their lives.

Our reporting took us to all corners of Oklahoma, across the border into Texas, and to the nation’s capital and the U.S. Supreme Court.


World Views: December 20, 2013

Dec 20, 2013

Joshua Landis provides an update on the ongoing removal of chemical weapons in Syria, and Rebecca Cruise examines the recent executions of high-level government officials in North Korea, and what they could mean. 

Later, a conversation with a trio of scientists and engineers about how three very different developing countries share many of the same sanitation and hygiene concerns.

Rod Waddington / Flickr Creative Commons

Despite radically different cultures, climate, geography, and levels of government involvement in improving the lives of its citizens, Ethiopia, India, and China all face similar water issues.

KGOU’s World Views host and the Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies Suzette Grillot recently gathered three engineers together for a conversation about water, sanitation, and hygiene concerns in their respective countries of expertise.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Parts of Oklahoma have been suffering from severe and exceptional drought conditions for three straight years. That is a long time, especially for communities in western Oklahoma.

But this drought might be closer to its beginning than its end, and with little warning could encompass the entire state next year.

welcome to texas sign
Paul L. McCord, Jr. / Flickr Creative Commons

Exactly where the border between Oklahoma and Texas lies along the Red River has never been completely clear, especially where Lake Texoma covers the original river shore.

A grounded boat dock at Canton Lake, where Oklahoma City got billions of gallons of water in early 2013.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust has taken a lot of criticism the past few years over how it’s gone about securing enough water to meet the city’s needs.

Dennis Frank / Flickr Creative Commons

Eastern Red Cedar trees are bad for Oklahoma. The volatile oils they contain can cause the trees to explode during wildfires, spreading embers over hundreds of yards. They crowd out other plants, force wildlife off their habitats, and steal rainfall — which is bad news during a drought.

As The Journal Record‘s Brian Brus reports, it’s been said each red cedar can guzzle dozens of gallons of water each day:

Lake Improvement Association / Flickr Creative Commons

There’s too much phosphorous in the vast majority of Oklahoma’s lakes and streams.

Excessive phosphorous and nitrogen leads to blue-green algae blooms, which can cause respiratory, eye, and stomach problems in people, and fish kills due to lack of oxygen.

Jeff Converse of the Canton Lake Association stands in front of a boat ramp he says has been surrounded by mud and weeds since Oklahoma City withdrew water from the lake in January.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Canton, Oklahoma — population 625 — is a town on the brink. Canton relies on lake season, and lake season never really got started this year.

At the first of the year, Oklahoma City took water from Canton Lake to meet demand at the height of the drought. While that decision kept faucets flowing in the metro, it threatens the very existence of Canton the community.

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

City officials in Duncan, Okla., are looking for ways to keep from running out of water.

If drought conditions continue as they have over the last couple of years, the city of more than 23,000 will see its water supplies totally depleted by the end of 2016, according to a story in the Duncan Banner. 

World Views: November 1, 2013

Nov 1, 2013

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the implications of the Roma child found living with a couple in Greece, and the October 26 protest by Saudi women in defiance of the country's traditions against driving.

Later, a conversation about water and sanitation in Africa with the University of Oklahoma 2013 International Water Prize winner Ada Oko-Williams, and University College London hydrogeologist Richard Taylor.

Julien Harneis / Flickr Creative Commons

Ada Oko-Williams grew up in Nigeria, a country with more than 160 million people, but where only half the population has access to safe drinking water. Even fewer people have acceptable sanitary facilities.

She now lives and works in Sierra Leone, and over the past half-decade has worked with charities and non-governmental organizations in West Africa to create open-defecation free communities that benefit hundreds of thousands of people. Oko-Williams says the health problems associated with unsafe drinking water are well-known, but there are other dimensions to a lack of access.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Moving water from the southeast Oklahoma to Oklahoma City is highly controversial. The battle over who controls water across most of that part of the state still has the state, city and tribal governments tied up in court after more than two years.

Mark Fischer / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court in June sided with Oklahoma, ruling the interstate Red River water compact did not entitle Texas to water within Oklahoma’s borders.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Supporters let out a big cheer Wednesday after the Oklahoma Water Resources Board voted to cap the amount of water that can be taken from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, the source of drinking water for communities across a large area of south-central Oklahoma.

The decision was 10 years in the making, and came about — in part — because some landowners were concerned that limestone and sand mining was draining the aquifer too quickly.

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