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May 23, 2014

Bill co-authors from Norman support reuse of critical resource

NORMAN — A bill encouraging and supporting water reuse went to the governor’s desk Thursday, thanks to Norman lawmakers.

Authored in the Senate by Rob Standridge, R-Norman, and co-author John Sparks, D-Norman, then carried in the House by Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, the measure represents bipartisan effort to respond to emerging water shortages through facilitating reuse policy.

“In most cases, water reuse is more affordable than the construction of new pipelines or a reservoir, and the technology has proven to be safe, effective and reliable,” Standridge said. “For a number of growing municipalities, reuse may be the best option to expand the supply of drinking water. This legislation will support and enable water districts and municipalities to move ahead with water reuse projects.”

Under the measure, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality will be required to issue approval or disapproval of water reuse project applications.

Standridge said reuse should be an important part of the state’s long-term vision for water.

In the past, reuse applications often stalled while under consideration by the ODEQ.

Previous leadership at ODEQ appeared hesitant to approve applications for reuse projects where bodies of water have been declared sensitive water supplies. But in many cases, those reuse discharges could help alleviate, rather than aggravate, the problem in sensitive bodies of water like Lake Thunderbird.

Senate Bill 1187 requires action on the part of the ODEQ, “where such discharges do not contain concentrations of pollutants greater than the existing concentrations of such pollutants in the receiving water body.”

The discharge is not allowed to make things worse, but can be approved, even in cases of sensitive bodies of water, if the right conditions are met.

“The good news is that reuse is getting everyone’s attention,” Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. “In order to meet the state’s goal of no more fresh water use in 2060, reuse has to be a part of that equation.”

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