NORMAN — Transcript photojournalist Kyle Phillips’ photo in Thursday’s Transcript said more than any climatologist’s official report ever could. That is red dirt in the foreground of the dam at Lake Thunderbird. That dirt hasn’t been seen since the lake was filled in the 1960s.
The drought that has gripped much of the Southwest is drawing down municipal reservoirs throughout central Oklahoma. Lake Thunderbird is down about 8 feet below the conservation pool, which is about 62 percent full. Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City recently got water released upstream from Canton Lake.
Norman had hoped to buy treated water from Oklahoma City. But that city’s water supply also is depleted and conservation efforts have begun throughout central Oklahoma.
A pipeline that would allow the city to buy raw water from Lake Atoka through Oklahoma City’s existing pipeline is planned. Oklahoma City doesn’t plan on selling water to Norman until its own supply is replenished.
That will force Norman to try and buy water rights from Del City, which is a partner in the lake but doesn’t use all of its rights to Lake Thunderbird. In the meantime, Norman officials will likely want to enact some stronger water conservation measures.
The city is looking at many ways to conserve water itself. They have applied for permission to use water discharged from the sewage treatment plan in the compost plant across the street. If approved, that could save the city about 13 million gallons a month, not insignificant in a city that uses between 8 and 20 million gallons a day, depending on the weather.