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February 14, 2013

OKC has no extra water to sell for Norman’s use

NORMAN — Oklahoma City has its own water shortage problems these days. For Norman and the conservators of Lake Thunderbird, that means OKC has no water to sell.

No one’s surprised, given the recent news that low levels at Lake Hefner have put the boating season on the skids and draws by OKC on Canton Lake could cause fishkills.

Still, with the drought entering its third year, officials hoped to purchase raw water from the Atoka line to augment Lake Thunderbird.

The Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, which manages Thunderbird, learned recently that no water is currently available from Oklahoma City’s Atoka line, which runs near the east Norman lake.

Members of Oklahoma’s Washington delegation, in particular Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, were successful in passing a bill to allow COMCD to bring in outside water to Lake Thunderbird.

Oklahoma lawmakers had tried to get some form of that bill through in previous years and didn’t succeed until last session. The victory may have come a year too late to help Thunderbird and Norman through the current drought.

District Manager Randy Worden said COMCD is moving forward with plans to tap the Atoka line, but OKC has said it cannot sell water to augment Thunderbird.

“They don’t have any (water) to give us at this time,” Worden said. “That’s their system, they need to take care of their customers first, and I certainly understand that.”

Worden said COMCD will focus on conservation and reuse.

“That will be several years away,” Worden said of using reclaimed wastewater to augment lake levels. “We’re preceding on with reuse, but that’s a slow process.”

The Atoka tap will take some time as well.

“We have to execute a contract with Oklahoma City and I have to hire an engineer to design the facilities and submit those to Oklahoma City for approval,” he said. “Once that’s done, we’ll hire a contractor to make the connection.”

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