OKC Can Sell Norman Water, Depending On Amount

Wednesday, January 2nd 2013, 9:28 pm
By: News 9

Experts say Lake Thunderbird will hit a record low next month and that has Oklahoma's third largest city scrambling to find ways to keep water running.

One option for Norman includes purchasing water from Oklahoma City. OKC officials say their city is battling its own water issues, but they also say it is possible to provide Norman with water.

Supplying Norman with water depends how much Norman will need, according to Oklahoma City public works director Debbie Ragan. Lake Hefner in northwest Oklahoma City and most lakes across the metro are low, but none of the lakes are quite as bad at Lake Thunderbird.

"No one living can ever remember Lake Thunderbird getting this bad," city manager Mark Edwards of Del City said.

Lake Thunderbird serves residents in Norman, Midwest City and Del City. The tri-city area is home to nearly 200,000 people. Midwest City and Del City also use deep water wells. Norman does not use wells.

"We hadn't had to ration, so we're in good shape," city manager Guy Henson of Midwest City said.

Henson's counterpart in Del City says he is experiencing a similar situation.

1/1/2013 Related Story: Lake Thunderbird Dangerously Low, Congress Allows Additional Water Source

"With the water wells and everything we've got in place, we will be fine," Edwards said. "It's Norman that's got [its] back up against the wall."

Norman survives entirely off of Lake Thunderbird and Thunderbird needs life support.

"Once you get out of the conservation pool, you're in pretty dire straits," Norman mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. "It's a very serious situation."

Oklahoma City has a contract with Norman to sell water. So far, Norman has not asked Oklahoma City for support, but needing that support is a strong possibility as the drought continues.

Oklahoma City issues requirements for use of its water. If used, Norman residents would need to abide by Oklahoma City water conservation orders, according to Ragan. Only a limited amount of water would be supplied to Norman. And, Oklahoma City would reserve the right to cut off its water to Norman, if necessary.

Options for keeping Lake Thunderbird alive include using pipelines to direct water from other lakes, recycling water by allowing treated sewage water to be used and building a new lake. A new lake could take more than a decade to complete, and officials do not know where it will be built.

To save as much water as possible, all three cities are now required to cut back 10 percent on the amount of water pulled from Lake Thunderbird.

The City of Norman says water rationing orders will more than likely be necessary starting in the Spring.