Growing Resistance to Legislation that Could Lead to Cross-state Water Transfers
A bill to study the possibility of moving water from eastern Oklahoma — where it’s abundant — to western Oklahoma — which has been suffering under half a decade of drought — has residents in the east worried about what transferring water out of their area would mean for their own water supply and the tourism so many communities there rely on.
The Oklahoman’s Silas Allen reports Senate Bill 760, by Republican Mike Shulz, is drawing the ire of water advocacy groups, like Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy.
Reservoirs like Sardis Lake represent “the vast majority” of the local economies in nearby towns, [ORWP’s Russell Doughty] said. If a large amount of water is transferred out of the area, it could have a devastating effect on cities that rely on tourist dollars for their livelihoods.
Doughty pointed to Canton Lake, in northwest Oklahoma, as an example. The lake is at 20 percent of its capacity after losing billions of gallons of water to Oklahoma City in 2013. Since then, businesses in nearby Canton have struggled or closed down.
The paper reports Shulz bill, which has been assigned to the energy committee, would create a 9 member team appointed by the governor, House speaker, and Senate President pro tem that Shulz told the paper would not be focused on a single part of the state.
“I’m not looking at any particular reservoir, nor am I looking at any particular part of the state,” Schulz said. “I think this needs to be a comprehensive look.”
However, the facts about where the water in Oklahoma is and is not are clear. Long distance water transfers really only make sense from east to west. Shulz represents the Altus area, which has been among the most drought affected areas of the state.