Norman Wants Water Independence, but Still Needs Oklahoma City For Now

  • Logan Layden
Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, Okla.

Norman voters in January approved a water rate increase to pay for much needed improvements at the city’s water treatment plant, and in 2014, the city council decided to meet Norman’s future water needs through reuse and wells, rather than rely more on purchased water from Oklahoma City.

The idea is for Norman to be water independent. For now, however, Norman still needs the water Oklahoma City is selling. Norman used to only buy OKC water when it really needed it, like during a drought or heatwave, when demand was particularly high.

But as The Norman Transcript‘s Joy Hampton reports, Oklahoma recently changed its water rate system and will no longer allow Norman to purchase water in emergencies. Instead, Norman will have to buy a certain amount of water from OKC every month:

The new contract will charge less per gallon, but Norman must buy a minimum amount of water per month. The recent drought and population increases in the metro area pushed OKC to revamp its water rate structure.

If it’s approved in two weeks, the new contract with OKC will allow Norman to purchase 30.4 million gallons of water per month and pay for the months allotment.

Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske tells the paper the new contract will mean a more reliable water supply for Norman, and that — thanks to conservation efforts — Norman will only have to buy about half of what he originally thought.

The cost of the OKC water this year, which runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2016, will be $646,050. Next year, the annual cost goes up to $726,350.

“With our last rate increase, we did put money into our operating budget so we could fund this,” Komiske said. “We’re able to do this without putting any capital in the ground. We already have a connection.”

Hampton reports the contact is for 10 years, but that Norman can back out of it after three years, or when the city moves forward with plans to get its water elsewhere.

More wells, highly treated wastewater augmentation of the lake and other means of increasing Norman’s water supply will be implemented down the road as sources become feasible.