By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman is conserving water and waiting. How summer will turn out, whether trees will be lost or if Oklahoma City will sell emergency water and whether the Department of Environmental Quality will move forward to allow reclaimed water use in non-potable situations is unclear at this point.
And so, Norman waits. And prays for rain.
Lake Thunderbird’s pool level is at 1031.5 feet — 7.5 feet below the conservation pool.
The drought is beginning to impact builders and developers who are hoping the city will work with them on waiving some landscaping requirements before issuing certificates of occupancy for new homeowners wanting to move into their houses.
“Every house in Norman is required to have a tree or two, and they require a specific size, and they dictate a specific species of trees,” said Builders Association of South Central Oklahoma Board President Dusty Johnston. “It must be one of the approved trees of Norman. Unfortunately with the drought, those sometimes die.”
New landscaping isn’t all that’s at stake, however. Established bushes have already taken a hit because of low ground water levels and established trees could be threatened as well if the drought continues.
Central Oklahoma, including Cleveland County, remains in Severe Drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. And while the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook shows portions of Oklahoma as experiencing “continued drought with some improvement,” soil moisture content continues to decline at lower and lower levels across the state. That low moisture content is expected to impact trees by this summer.
Johnston said Norman residents can conserve water and save cherished shade trees by using gator bags.
“We call them gator bags, some call them tree bags,” he said. “They’re sold at most landscaping stores and they sell for about $20.”
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation uses gator bags on interstate plantings where water sources are not readily available, he said. The water truck makes its rounds and pumps water into the bags to allow slow release to the tree’s roots.
Every city council and mayoral candidate listed water as the number one priority issue Norman faces in it’s immediate future.
The city continues to look for options for water supply and water conservation opportunities.
Residents are urged to conserve and to check for and repair outdoor leaks that may have occurred over the course of the winter.
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