Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

City of Norman Awaiting State Permit to Sell Reclaimed Water so Frackers Don’t Have to Use Drinking Water

A Texas drilling company has tapped a hydrant and is using drinking water from the City of Norman for a drilling operation.

Norman has faced water supply shortages and the city has declared mandatory conservation measures, which restricts activities like outdoor watering and car washing, and hydraulic fracturing uses hundreds of thousands to millions of gallons of water.

The company, Finley Resources, isn’t breaking any laws or rules, and is using the same type of hydrant permit obtained by construction companies and other industrial customers. But Ken Komiske, the city’s utilities director, is hoping a state permit to sell reclaimed, non-potable water will reduce the amount of drinking water used for fracking and other industrial uses, The Journal Record‘s Sarah-Terry Cobo reports:

Komiske said he would love to be able to sell reclaimed water to commercial businesses, including to drillers, as an alternative to using drinking water. However, the city needs DEQ permits to sell reclaimed water that has been treated from its wastewater treatment facility.

Ward said there are several categories of reclaimed water. The more contact humans have with reclaimed water, the cleaner it must be. The DEQ is examining a permitting process for reclaimed water to be used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, [DEQ's assistant director for external affairs Tim] Ward said.

Customers pay 20 percent higher water rates when they tap a hydrant, Terry-Cobo reports. But the City of Norman doesn’t have a tiered-rate system for commercial customers like it does for residential customers:

Komiske said a tiered structure would penalize large businesses that employ hundreds of workers, and he wouldn’t want to discourage new businesses from moving into the city.

Councilman Chad Williams represents Ward 8, the district where Finley is drilling the horizontal oil well, on Franklin Road between 24th Avenue SW and 12th Avenue SW. He said he wasn’t aware that a drilling company was buying drinking water until he received an inquiry from The Journal Record.

Clarification: The company drilling the well hasn’t started the hydraulic fracturing process.

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  • maryfrancis111

    Thank you, Joe Wertz for this report. Last night, 4-8-2014, the Norman City Council was very attentive to this problem. I hope you have the opportunity to speak with the Norman atty Margaret Ruth Walker, who complained eloquently during public comments.
    As I read the City Ordinance, the city manager has total discretion on whether or not to allow this and also how much to charge for a permit – $3000 seems like a ‘drop in the bucket’ considering the fact that they have used more than 8.5 million gallons in less than a month and their permit runs until sometime in July!

    … sorry for the pun, I just couldn’t help it. I really need something to lighten this depressing news.

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