The Norman Transcript

July 17, 2013

City weighs water options

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Finding water is relatively easy. Paying for it is another matter.

“If you really want water, you go east,” a participant said at a public meeting Tuesday to review the Norman’s 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan.

The Norman resident was referring to a proposed partnership with Oklahoma City for supplying some of Norman’s future needs. That partnership was one of three options forwarded from the ad hoc Strategic Water Supply committee to the city for consideration. Two other options include the use of treated wastewater to augment Lake Thunderbird.

Norman is creating a 50-year strategy to meet the city’s long-term water needs. This was the fourth public meeting to provide education and seek public input as the city evaluates a variety of water supply options.

John Rehring, of Carollo Engineers, gave a project update of possible water supply options, evaluation criteria and costs.

The ad hoc committee investigated 12 water supply portfolios. Portfolios used a combination of water options. The options were compared and rated for availability, reliability, certainty of source, timeliness of source development and cost-effectiveness. As more information was gathered and compared, some portfolios were eliminated.

The final three portfolio options are diverse and include Lake Thunderbird, Norman’s active wells, Norman’s inactive wells, conservation and non-potable water reuse as part of the city’s plan for future water supply. However, there are differences to deal with Norman’s growing demand for water supply.

Portfolio 1 includes augmentation of Lake Thunderbird with reclaimed water — highly treated wastewater from Norman’s sewer plant. Currently, that wastewater is discharged into the Canadian River and eventually becomes someone’s drinking water. By treating it more highly before discharge, Norman could put the water into a tributary that leads to Thunderbird.

The Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, which manages the lake on behalf of the Bureau of Reclamation, supports augmentation, but the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has been opposed to that option, saying that Lake Thunderbird is an “imperiled body of water” and would not be appropriate for such a discharge.

But Rehring said other states already are using wastewater discharge in this manner and Oklahoma is moving that direction. He said Norman and other cities are in discussions with DEQ toward that end.

Portfolio 13 includes the use of regional raw water as a co-owner with Oklahoma City. The capital investment would be larger on this project, but most of that cost would be up front.

Portfolio 14 would augment Lake Thunderbird with wastewater and also add new groundwater wells.

Concerns voiced by the public included costs, cooperation from the DEQ or Oklahoma City, silting of Lake Thunderbird and whether Norman can and should be more aggressive in its water conservation policies.

The scope of the Strategic Water Supply Plan was to consider and narrow the options for city leaders.

Now the matter will move to the city council for consideration and debate. It is likely city council members will continue to seek input from constituents and stakeholders before making a decision on the direction Norman should take.

The meeting was televised on local government Channel 20 and will replay throughout the week. The PowerPoint presentation also will be available on the city website,

Joy Hampton