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February 28, 2014

Aquifer report sheds light on Norman’s well water for future

NORMAN — A recently released report will aid the city and state in planning for Norman’s future water supply.

City wells, which tap into the Garber-Wellington aquifer, are an important component of Norman’s water portfolio. If the aquifer is diminished more quickly than it can recharge, that could negatively affect the city’s ability to supply future water demand. But how much well water withdrawal is too much?

In conjunction with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, the U.S. Geological Survey recently completed a study of the Garber-Wellington to answer that question and to provide data critical to future policy making.

“This is part of the state water plan. Before you know what you can give away, you have to know what you have,” Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. “The news is really pretty good.”

The Central Oklahoma or Garber-Wellington aquifer lies beneath 3,000 square miles of central Oklahoma that includes parts of Canadian, Cleveland, Grady, Lincoln, Logan, McClain and Oklahoma counties.

“Water from the Central Oklahoma aquifer is used for public, industrial, commercial, agricultural and domestic supply,” according to the report, which will go through public and political comments and review before recommendations for the state water plan are formalized.

Still, the data is in and revised withdrawal allowances for current and future wells seem likely. The analyses indicate that the pumping rate of two acre-feet per acre per year is not sustainable for more than 41 years if every landowner with a potential well in each acre in the central Oklahoma aquifer exercised the current temporary right to pump at that rate.

“This would be if we had everything equally spaced out and all pumped at the same rate, but life doesn’t work like that,” Komiske said. “In reality, we’ll have unequal areas of withdrawal.”

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