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October 16, 2013

Strategic water study concluding

NORMAN — Norman could be flush with water someday if plans to augment Lake Thunderbird with wastewater are approved by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

That approval, however, could be years in coming. Meanwhile, the Norman City Council has to decide which of three water supply portfolio options to pin the city’s future hopes on.

“Diversity in your supply is a big strength,” said John Rehring from Carollo Engineers.

In deciding what makes sense for Norman, several public dialogues and a survey of priorities helped engineers from Carollo work toward a final recommendation for Norman.

“We looked at all the supply options that had been talked about over the years,” Rehring said.

Carollo and an ad hoc committee of Norman residents brainstormed for all possible options and eliminated what wasn’t feasible. The group packaged options to create water supply portfolios, then used screening criteria to rate and rank them.

Criteria included supply availability, reliability, certainty, timeliness, and cost–effectiveness, which allowed portfolios to be judged through quantitative and qualitative measures.

The study accounted for predictable changes like pending mandates governing levels of chromium-6 allowed in drinking water.

Well water with chromium-6 could be treated at a common facility by about 2020, Rehring said, but that process will require infrastructure the city doesn’t currently have and involves capital costs as well as additional treatment costs.

Added savings from water conservation also is anticipated.

“Norman’s already doing a lot for conservation, so it’s not as great as if we were starting from scratch,” Rehring said.

Water reuse is likely to play a large role in Norman and Oklahoma’s water future. The state recently passed gray water laws to allow municipalities to allow gray water reuse directly for landscape irrigation and similar non-potable uses.

Reclaimed water — treated sewer water — also can be used for some non-potable purposes. Further down the road, highly treated, reclaimed water could be used to augment Lake Thunderbird, Norman’s primary source of drinking water.

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