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April 7, 2013

City seeks long term solutions to water shortage issues

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.

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