Sparks said the area covering the rural water district is in a tough position.
“People are hesitant to build homes in the area because there is not a good water supply,” Sparks said. “At the same time, it’s difficult for them (the rural water district) to get the necessary number of users to buy the water to fund the rural water district’s initial capital investment.”
Homebuilders aren’t the only people who need the rural water supply. The DOC has two big prisons that are maxed out on their populations with aging infrastructure, Sparks said.
“There doesn’t seem to be extra money laying around the capital to invest in water infrastructure for the prisons,” Sparks said.
The rural water district would invest in infrastructure, treat the raw water and sell some of the treated water back to the Department of Corrections as needed.
“There are countless other issues that go into this project,” Sparks said. “One of the things I’ve made clear to the Department of Corrections from the beginning, is that I’ve only wanted to pursue this option if it is objectively a good deal for the Department of Corrections.”
Sparks said DOC has many budget demands, and his goal is to benefit DOC facilities east of Lexington as well as Oklahoma residents the water district would serve.
“I have a contract with the city of Lexington to provide them water,” Murnan said.
Lexington would purchase at least 23 percent of its water supply from the rural water district under the agreement.
“That’s the minimum that we need them to take,” Murnan said.
The city of Lexington currently buys water from Purcell. It uses 104 million gallons of water annually in a normal year. Some private, non-commercial users will be members of the rural water district as well. When the project started around a decade ago, people could sign up for $600, Murnan said. Now the cost is $2,500.