Norman Moving Quickly to Hike Rates for Drillers Using Drinking Water

  • Logan Layden

Hector Alejandro / Flickr

Norman mayor Cindy Rosenthal was taken off guard in late March, when The Journal Record broke the story about Texas-based Finley Resources tapping a city fire hydrant for an oil drilling operation. And at a city council meeting in April, she vowed to act quickly to update guidelines dealing with bulk water users — not just drilling companies.

The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo has been on the story since the beginning, and reports that on Wednesday, a city council committee met to discuss changes to water rates for bulk commercial users — like oil and gas operations — in response to public outcry:

Part of the public’s outrage is due to the fact that water used in drilling isn’t returned to rivers and lakes, effectively removing it from the water cycle, [councilman Tom Kovach] said. At the same time, cities are asking residents to use less water at home.

The details will have to be worked out before the full city council takes the issue up, but Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske supports Mayor Rosenthal’s idea of an inverted tier of charges that go up as water use increases.

Utilities Director Ken Komiske said an inverted tier rate for bulk water sales could promote frugal water use. Rosenthal suggested $4 per 1,000 gallons, up to 10,000 gallons; $5 per 1,000 gallons from 10,001 to 50,000 gallons; and $6 per 1,000 gallons for more than 50,000 gallons.

As StateImpact has reported, Norman utilities officials would actually like to sell untreated water to customers like Finley Resources, instead of the treated drinking water that comes from hydrants, especially since the city has implemented mandatory odd/even watering schedules for its customers because of the ongoing drought.

Komiske wants a state permit to sell reclaimed, non-potable water to industrial users, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is looking into the possibility. He tells The Journal Record he’s also looking into reopening water wells the city closed several years ago because of high levels of natural arsenic.