NORMAN — Spring rains are delivering relief to thirsty plants trying to emerge as warmer weather returns to the Sooner state, but those rains are not yet sufficient to mitigate the cumulative impact of a drought now entering its third year.
Even when the drought does end, water for Norman’s growing population will be a continued concern. The city is seeking long term answers as it prepares a 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan. One important aspect evolving out of that plan is that water conservation will need to be a natural and ongoing part of our daily lives now and into the future.
With that information in mind, the Norman Environmental Control Advisory Board wants all of us to be more water wise. The city board is comprised of community volunteers appointed by the mayor and approved by the Norman City Council. In a video-recorded event, ECAB hosted a workshop recently at city hall to help residents learn the ins and outs of water conservation and why it’s imperative for the city as another summer approaches.
Geri Wellborn, Norman Water Treatment Facility Lab manager, said Lake Thunderbird was constructed in the early 1960s when the Little River was dammed. The Little River runs through urban areas which is why fertilizer control has become an important issue.
In addition to providing drinking water for Norman, Del City, and Midwest City, Lake Thunderbird is the most used recreational lake in the state, Wellborn said.
The Central Master Conservancy District operates and maintains the dam, reservoir and pumping facilities at the lake. COMCD recently asked the cities to reduce intake by 10 percent, Wellborn said. Because of that reduction, Norman is in Stage 2 mandatory conservation.
Janay Greenlee with the Norman Planning Department talked about the use of drought tolerant plants and low impact designs for sustainable landscapes. The Oklahoma proven species list is developed by the Oklahoma State Department of Forestry and Oklahoma State University. These plants require less water to establish and sustain and are resistant to most local pests.
“The goal is to reduce water use for landscaping and to minimize irrigation use,” Greenlee said.
Greenlee said it’s important to test the soil before introducing new plants. She said outdoor living spaces can be created using native plants, boulders and permeable pathways. Besides being beautiful, using native plantings can be easier to maintain, Greenlee said.
Norman Environmental Services Coordinator Debbie Smith talked about gray water use and rain barrels.
The gray water ordinance was established by the city council recently and allows residents to use water from washing machines or showers, for example, to irrigate landscape and gardens. This may be most practical for new homes where the piping system can be installed when the home is built, but some older homes may be retrofitted.
“Gray water is untreated household wastewater that has not come in contact with toilet waste,” according to the city definition. Water from the kitchen sink or from laundry of soiled diapers, would not be allowed. More information is available on the city website, Smith said.
Smith also talked about the importance of irrigating landscaping, grass and gardens early in the day before heat causes the water to evaporate. Drip irrigation is more efficient and better absorbed than using a sprinkler.
Rain barrels can be used to collect and store runoff from the roof. One-tenth of an inch of rain across the expanse of a roof can fill up a rain barrel.
The full workshop is available for viewing online through the city’s website at www.ci.norman.ok.us. Click on the link to City Council and Planning Commission videos on the right side of the home page. The workshop will also air periodically on channel 20, said City Clerk Brenda Hall.