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March 27, 2013

Water quantity, quality top issue in election

NORMAN — Interviews with political candidates, surveys and statements at public forums remind us of the importance of fresh water. Every candidate lists water quantity and quality as Norman’s top issue going forward. Water, they say, may be the new oil. With new methods to extract and reuse, water and oil are becoming more alike.

Experts tell us we are in a drought cycle not seen in this area since the 1950s. That was when Norman began its preparation for Lake Thunderbird, our dominant water source. The only way to fill the lake is through precipitation. It’s currently 7.5 feet below the conservation pool level.

A wet spring and early summer would help. Like the groundhog’s prediction of an early spring, we don’t look for it to happen. Norman’s situation is troubling, but it isn’t quite as drastic as those interviewed by Oklahoma Watch this past Sunday.

While we fret about odd-even watering restrictions and what kind of landscape to plant, residents near Stillwater are close to draining their reservoir with a rescue pipeline still five months away.

The answer for Norman’s water issues will likely be a combination of strategies. The city’s long-range water study is identifying them. They include purchase of raw water from Oklahoma City, repurposing some of our older water wells, reuse of reclaimed water and better conservation.

It also will take a combination of resources to make it work. City officials are already contemplating a rate increase election for water customers. Norman is one of the few cities that has to go to the people to vote in utility rate increases.

Even if we get some rain, the reprieve will only be temporary and shouldn’t be used as a reason to punt this issue down the road. Norman’s future depends on it.

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