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March 16, 2013

Supreme Court gets look at dispute

NORMAN — Long before the Midwest became parched from three years of drought, thirsty communities in north Texas had their eyes on water in southeastern Oklahoma.

Oklahoma officials slow played the offers and a Texas water district in 2007 took the state to court to force the issue. Oklahoma water managers have won at the federal District Court and appellate level but the issue will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court next month.

The head of Oklahoma’s Water Resource Board J.D. Strong told a business group this week that oral arguments in the Texas case will be heard April 23 in the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s ruling in Oklahoma’s favor could be a major step for the state in advancing its long-range water plan.

Strong said lawsuits from Native American tribes claiming rights to water are progressing through mediation. It’ll take some concessions on all sides to solve the state’s water issues.

The state’s 2060 water plan projects water demand, like our population, will grow by a third over the next 50 years. A goal set by the governor was to use no more fresh water in 2060 than is used today.

That’s an ambitious goal that will require use of reclaimed water, drought-resistant landscaping and other innovative ways to reuse water. The water board also projected $82 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 50 years.

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