Currently, wastewater is discharged into rivers and eventually becomes someone’s drinking water. But the discharge points in the Thunderbird augmentation proposal would be a shorter distance. The reclaimed water would need to be treated more highly than current standards.
Lake Thunderbird has been declared an impaired body of water. Getting the DEQ to allow the use of reclaimed water to augment the lake could be difficult, even if the agency loosens up its regulations for other areas seeking such reuse.
“While it (using reclaimed water) certainly is not new on the national scale, it is new to Oklahoma,” Rehring said.
All three of the top rated water supply portfolios under consideration would use water from Thunderbird and the city’s wells. All include conservation and non-potable reuse as part of the package.
One option requires forming a regional partnership with Oklahoma City as a co-owner to build a pipeline to bring in raw water from southeast Oklahoma.
However, a lawsuit between the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes and Oklahoma City has not been resolved. That puts a question mark into the cost and timing portion of a possible partnership with Oklahoma City.
The other two proposals include augmenting Thunderbird with reclaimed water.
Something will have to be done, and it won’t be cheap. Anticipated price tags range from $250 million to $340 million in infrastructure investment and another $21 million to $27 million per year for operations and maintenance to meet Norman’s future water needs. Those costs would be staggered out over the course of the next four to five decades.
“It’s not free or easy to keep maintaining just where we are now,” Rehring said.
Carollo’s final report is due by early November. Council members said they would like the city to host another public meeting on the water options under consideration sometime before Thanksgiving.