The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 14, 2013

Water conservation measures begin in Norman

By Joy Hampton
Norman Transcript / CNHI News Service

NORMAN, Okla. — The Norman Strategic Water Supply ad hoc committee is looking for long-term solutions for the city’s water needs. The committee is working with Carollo Engineers Inc. to prepare the 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan.

Carollo was hired to prepare the study because the current yield of the lake could be reduced, as could the yield allowed from the aquifer. Meanwhile, Norman’s population continues to grow.

Recently, the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, which manages the lake, asked Norman, Del City and Midwest City to reduce their allocations of lake water by 10 percent because of low lake levels resulting from long-term drought. About two-third of Norman’s city water supply comes from Lake Thunderbird. A smaller portion comes from wells. In emergencies, water is purchased from Oklahoma City.

Some relief is in sight. The recent passage of the Lake Thunderbird Efficient Use Act of 2012 will allow COMCD to negotiate for outside water sources to augment the lake’s dwindling conservation pool during drought emergencies.

The most likely and least expensive option will be a direct link to the Oklahoma City’s Atoka water line. Buying raw water from OKC is perhaps the least expensive solution for augmenting Lake Thunderbird and for solving the city of Norman’s water woes.

But city leaders and other stakeholders say there is no single solution to Norman’s long-term water future.

In addition, negotiating a contract with OKC could take time.

In fact, today, Stage 2 Mandatory Water Conservation for the city is being implemented. That means outside watering will be limited to even-odd days, with even-numbered addresses watering only on even-numbered calendar days and odd-numbered address watering on odd-numbered calendar days.

All outside watering, with the exception of hand-held water, is prohibited on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

This course of action was taken because of the 10 percent reduction.

In the meantime, the study will provide long-term answers for the city.

Building reliability through diversity: Long-term water solutions should include a diverse portfolio of options, said John Rehring, of Carollo Engineers.

While it is important to identify new sources of water supply and compare and rate those sources according to criteria that best suit the city’s needs, conservation will be a key aspect of any water plan for Norman’s future.

Conservation efforts will include public outreach and education regarding watering practices and ways to eliminate water waste.

“We’ve already taken some steps on conservation,” Rehring said of the city’s practices and public education program.

Other solutions under consideration include buying treated water from OKC, augmenting Thunderbird with raw water from OKC or other sources such as Kaw or Scissortail reservoirs, and augmenting Thunderbird with water reuse.

Norman has added more wells since several were closed in 2006 because of naturally occurring arsenic.

“We actually have more wells now than we did in 2006,” Utilities Director Ken Komiske said.

But only so many wells can be drilled, and when demand is high — as it often is in summer months — those wells need time to recharge. Water conservation measures prohibiting outdoor irrigation on Wednesdays and Thursdays allow that equipment and groundwater levels to “catch up” with the demand, Komiske said.

Additionally, while Norman’s wells are currently well within the acceptable guidelines for Chromium 6, if those guidelines are tightened, that could affect Norman’s water supply in the future.

Criteria for creating a water portfolio: The Strategic Water Supply Committee is looking at several criteria for comparing Norman’s water choices to create a diverse and dependable portfolio of options for the city’s future.

The top criteria, in order of ranking based on input from residents and stakeholders from highest priority down, include long-term supply reliability, efficient use of water resources, timely implementation and certainty, environmental stewardship, affordability, treated water quality aesthetics, phasing potential, and community values of recreation, aesthetics and property rights.

Komiske and Rehring said these are not the only factors under consideration, but these are the items the public has identified as the highest priority for Norman.

With the information gathering stage pretty much completed, the study will look at detailed portfolio evaluations of the most feasible options.

Those potential solutions will be rated and compared. More public meetings will follow before the Norman City Council adopts the final 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan.