Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

What Happens When Oklahoma Water Systems Drown

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Osage County Rural Water District No. 9's water tower just outside Barnsdall, Okla.

Oklahoma faces an estimated $43 billion in much needed repairs and upgrades to aging water systems across the state.

“A lot of things were sort of overbuilt to meet long-term water needs,” says the Water Resources Board’s Executive Director J.D. Strong.

Ratepayers in small towns and rural water districts are hit the hardest when new pipelines and treatment plants have to be built.

There is help in the form of grants and low-interest loans, but sometimes even that isn’t enough and another, often final option comes into play: Consolidation, merging two or more water systems into one.

It’s meant keep rates in check for customers, but the idea usually isn’t greeted warmly. Even so, consolidation is expected to become more and more common.

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