Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People
Logan Layden is a native of McAlester, Oklahoma. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2009 and spent three years as a state capitol reporter and local host of All Things Considered for NPR member station KGOU in Norman.
Steel Plant, Anshan, Liaoning, China, February 2009.
In May of last year, it looked like impoverished areas of eastern Oklahoma would be getting a lifeline. Coal mining, once a vital industry there, appeared to be headed for a comeback thanks to booming international demand.
All the recent wet weather could lead some to think water conservation isn’t as necessary as it was at the peak of the drought, but state water experts are working make conservation a higher priority in the minds of Oklahomans. That includes encouraging water reuse and making conservation a year-round proposition.
Oklahoma’s water supply is more than adequate to meet the state’s immediate needs, Oklahoma Water Resources Board executive director J.D. Strong told lawmakers Tuesday. That abundance can make it difficult to convince some water users of the importance of conserving water to prepare for a drier future, he said.
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. Continue Reading →
Harold and Amy Coulter with their granddaughter at Walnut Creek State Park in August 2014.
Walnut Creek State Park closed indefinitely last weekend, the latest in a series of park closures that started in 2011, and a victim of budget priorities and changing attitudes at the department of tourism. StateImpact traveled to the banks of Keystone Lake to visit with some of Walnut Creek’s last campers as a state park, and the people whose livelihoods are now in danger.
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 oncrumbling pipelines, an obsolete treatment plant, or drought — though more rain is needed. The problem is silt. The Cleveland Reservoir is nearly 80 years old.
That kind of hyperbole is expected anytime President Barack Obama’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does, well, anything. But the changes being proposed to the way bodies of water are classified are confusing.
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.
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.