In January, OKC diverted billions of gallons of water from Lake Canton to replenish its drought-addled drinking supply. Five months later, OKC’s reservoir is overflowing and Canton is still struggling.
Parts of Oklahoma have received a lot of rain lately, and some municipalities like Norman have lifted mandatory water conservation measures.
But drought cycles often include periods with a lot of rain, reports the Norman Transcript’s Joy Hampton, who interviewed John Harrington, director of Water Resources for the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments:
… often that comes in ‘flashy’ events — lots of water in a short time that hits the ground, causes flooding, and then goes to Arkansas,” Harrington said. “Two weeks after the event there is scant evidence that the rain ever happened.”
The Supreme Court of the United States on Thursday unanimously sided with Oklahoma in Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, the state’s long-simmering fight with Texas over water in the Red River basin.
The decision was unanimous, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion for the court. Here’s an excerpt from her opinion, which is embedded above:
Three things persuade the Court that the Compact did not grant cross-border rights: the well-established principle that States do not easily cede their sovereign powers; the fact that other interstate water compacts have treated cross-border rights explicitly; and the parties’ course of dealing
The “Oklahoma Standard” is a phrase that describes how this state responds in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, like the tornado that ripped through Moore on May 20.
But that resiliency isn’t reflected in Oklahoma’s construction standards, which don’t factor for tornadoes.
Restaurants in Broken Arrow were ordered to close Wednesday because of a leak in a pipeline that brings water to the city from Pryor, about 30 miles away.
The news can’t come as a complete surprise to Broken Arrow officials, like Engineering Director Kenny Schwab.
He emphasized the importance of the Pryor pipeline to StateImpact in November, and said having the water treated and piped in couldn’t be a permanent situation.
“It’s about 30 miles to pump the water to the community. That’s our sole source. Almost 100,000 people relying on a 30 mile pipeline that was aging,” Schwab said.
Every four years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency releases an analysis of how much federal money states will need to complete water projects to provide clean drinking water over the next 20 years.
The most recent update of the EPA’s Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment was just released, and the national need is staggering:
The nation’s drinking water utilities need $384.2 billion in infrastructure investments over the next 20 years for thousands of miles of pipe, as well as thousands of treatment plants, storage tanks, and other key assets to ensure the public health, security, and economic well-being of our cities, towns, and communities.
Oklahoma needs about $6.5 billion in federal funding, similar to most surrounding states, except Texas, whose size and population contributes to it’s nearly $44 billion need.
Now, a toxic golden algae bloom at Lugert-Altus Lake has left it “essentially dead as a fishery,” The Oklahoman’s Ed Godfrey reports. Wildlife officials aren’t sure how the algae spreads, but the drought improves growth conditions:
It flourishes in cool water conditions where there is less healthy green algae and in lakes with higher salt content. The lack of rain also can concentrate nutrients in the water that increase the odds for toxic blooms, but there is no way to predict when they will happen.
Lankford grilled the EPA on new ethanol requirements, which he worried could void warranties on cars and trucks. “Lankford, the subcommittee chairman, did not invite a witness from the renewable fuels industry, though he had a panel of three strong critics of the standard.”
Oklahoma’s overall conditions have improved with recent rain, but western regions of the state are still suffering “extreme” and “exceptional” levels of drought, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show.
Thirty-eight percent of the state is now classified as drought-free, a slight improvement from the 32 drought-free total recorded on May 28, the data show. In March, the entire state was blanketed by drought conditions.
Summer, however, is just getting started, National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Lacy tells Tulsa World reporter Althea Peterson:
“We’re going to start seeing our regular 90s in the middle to latter part of the week next week,” Lacy said.
Following a major disaster like the Moore tornado on May 20th, news reporters want answers, and they don’t want to wait.
How many people were killed? How many injured? Those questions can usually be addressed fairly accurately. But when it comes to figuring the cost of the storm, Oklahoma’s Insurance Department has provided estimates ranging from $500 million to $5 billion.
StateImpact has been looking into how exactly these numbers are calculated, and why they’re so inexact.