The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

October 2, 2012

Plan for the future; Don’t take fresh water for granted

ENID, Okla. — Enid’s summer of discontent is over, but our water issues are not all under the bridge.

As promised, the city of Enid removed all water restrictions on Monday. But officials cautioned that water conservation remains an ongoing focus for the city, and year-round conservation efforts of residents and businesses are encouraged.

The city says 66 percent of our water is purchased by commercial entities. Residential is second with 30 percent. The city itself uses 2 percent, with neighboring communities also accounting for about 2 percent.

James Neal’s excellent Sept. 9 article told the tale of two aquifers and one growing city.

Enid was built atop its own water source: the Enid Isolated Terrace (EIT), a roughly 80-square-mile aquifer below central Garfield County.

The city has long since outgrown the capacity of this aquifer, and now predominantly relies on water pumped from wells fed by an aquifer that follows the path of the Cimarron River.

The Enid aquifer likely once was connected to the Cimarron aquifer or the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River to the north, or possibly both. As rivers shifted their course over time, the aquifer beneath Enid became isolated from the river.

When you consider the price other communities have paid, we’ve been a little spoiled about water in Enid. Just as consumers assume food always will be at the grocery store, we take our fresh water for granted.

At the summer’s arid apex, city commissioners imposed a rationing system and established severe penalties for those who exceeded city water use standards, while rewarding those who conserved.

A recent USA Today analysis of 100 municipalities shows how water prices are gushing higher, with the price tag doubling in one of four localities during the last dozen years.

Here are some staggering findings since 2001:

• Costs in Wichita, Kan., rose 153 percent and Oklahoma City increased 77 percent, with Tulsa growing just 34 percent.

• In March, the Midland (Texas) City Council unanimously approved a five-fold increase on water customers using more than 10,000 gallons monthly.

• For the first time ever, El Paso Water Utilities ran its desalination plant at full capacity last summer to make brackish groundwater drinkable.

Clean-water mandates, coupled with increases for fuel, chemical and power to treat and transfer, are blowing costs out of the water.

To meet infrastructure needs by 2035, improvements for U.S. water systems could total $1 billion, according to the USA Today report. Typically, municipalities issue bonds paid out over time, passed along to consumers.

We’re interested to read Enid’s forthcoming water study by C.H. Guernsey Co. We hope it will show a comprehensive analysis of the city’s needs and possible sources for the future.

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