Norman Mayor and Residents Question Use of City Drinking Water For Drilling

  • Logan Layden

Tyler Ingram / Flickr

Many residents — and some members of the city council — didn’t know Norman’s drinking water is being used for drilling until The Journal Record broke the story in March about Texas-based driller Finley Resources tapping a fire hydrant near Franklin Road.

They had a chance to voice their concerns at a city council meeting April 8, and as The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports, Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal says she wants quick action to address the issue.

“We don’t really have guidelines in our ordinance that details how to deal with these bulk water meters,” Rosenthal said, “whether it is a developer using water for dust control on new construction sites (or) Girl Scout groups using them for car wash fundraisers.”

She said the city didn’t anticipate or develop policies to deal with high-volumn water sales for industrial operations such as drilling.

She said she asked the council’s finance and oversight committees to examine the bulk water rate structure, as well as the permitting process. The city might require future bulk water permits for drilling operations to be reviewed by the utility director and city manager, she said.

A single fracking well can use millions of gallons of water. Right now, Norman residents are being asked to conserve and there are restrictions on outdoor water use.

“As I said Tuesday night, I’m very concerned (and) most of the members of the council are concerned that we not send contradictory messages to our citizens to be good conservators of our water resources, and be sensitive to other (industrial) users,” [Rosenthal] said.

As StateImpact has reported, Finley Resources isn’t breaking any laws, and is using the same type of hydrant permit as other industrial customers and construction companies. Norman’s utilities director would like to sell reclaimed water to these types of customers, but is waiting for a permit from the state.

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