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June 4, 2014

Norman to choose future water direction

NORMAN — Water is an abundant, renewable resource — unless you use it more quickly than nature can replenish the supply. Oklahoma has committed to “Water for 2060 ... a goal of consuming no more fresh water in 2060 than is consumed statewide in 2012.”

That aggressive goal will require conservation, reuse and gray water practices, and Norman is poised to lead the way in all three of those areas.

Step 1 for Norman has been the lengthy and thorough process of making a long-term water supply plan. If the planning process revealed anything, it’s that there are no quick and easy answers.

Consider the following limiting factors:

· A recently released report on the Garber Wellington Aquifer indicates that revised withdrawal allowances for current and future wells is likely. The analyses suggest 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.

· Lake Thunderbird is slowly silting in. In about 50 years, the city will have to address how or if to extend the lake’s natural 100-year life expectancy.

· Federal regulations on Chromium 6 that will affect several of Norman’s existing wells are expected in the near future.

All the while, the city continues to grow.

 

Conservation key to future: There is a bright spot on the water horizon. Norman residents have reduced the per-capita demand on water with conservation efforts. However, projected water use through 2060 still will increase as population increases, John Rehring, vice president of Carollo Engineers, told interested members of the public at Tuesday’s public meeting on Norman’s 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan.

For Rehring, whose expert team led Norman through the process, the public meeting was a culmination of ad hoc committee meetings, strategy sessions and research.

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