NORMAN — Lake Thunderbird’s role as a water supply for central Oklahoma cities has been strengthened by legislation that passed the U.S. House.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, have sponsored legislation allowing water from outside the Thunderbird drainage basin to be piped into the lake east of Norman.
Thunderbird — opened nearly 50 years ago to serve Norman, Del City and Midwest City — has struggled through the recent drought with low water levels and water-quality issues. A study released last month raised questions of low-dissolved oxygen, high water turbidity and high chlorophyll.
The legislation allows the lake’s operators, the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, to buy water from Oklahoma City’s Atoka Reservoir. A pipeline feeding Oklahoma City already exists. Norman already buys treated water from Oklahoma City on peak demand days.
The legislation was needed because there were no provisions for additional incoming water outside the drainage basin. The lake’s operators could buy water from Oklahoma City and pass along those costs to its municipal water customers.
There has been talk in recent years of adding another reservoir to serve central Oklahoma. Adding outside water to Thunderbird could delay that expense. It could also give the state time to figure out how best to manage southeast Oklahoma water.