"Without water, we can't produce anything," Nigh told about 400 city and state officials attending the Sixth Annual Governor's Water Conference at the Hilton Inn West in Oklahoma City.
"Water is the common thread, the key to economic development," Nigh said.
Ed Pugh, an aide to Nigh, recalled how many Oklahoma businesses had to shut down periodically in 1980, when a long drought forced more than 200 towns to ration water.
"We're in much better shape now, with our water supply, than we were then," Pugh said
That 1980 drought, and its effect on the state's economy, were the reasons why Nigh organized the First Annual Governor's Water Conference that year, Pugh said.
"Last week," Nigh said, "in this very room, we got great news, that we're going to have light at the end of the economic tunnel, as Hitachi celebrated its announcement that it will invest $45 million and hire 500 people at a plant in Norman within the next five years."
Hitachi executives would not have chosen the Norman site if the city's water supply and distribution system had not been able to meet its needs for the computer disk drive plant, Nigh said.
"We've got to remember, that in order to have light at the end of the tunnel, we have to have adequate sources of water, and adequate water treatment and distribution systems. That's what this water conference is all about," Nigh said.
Grover Phillips, director of the industrial division of the Oklahoma Department of Economic Development, said the availability of water is a "selling point" for more than half of Oklahoma's towns, when he calls on industrial prospects.
However, some areas, such as the Panhandle, and some towns, such as Durant, still are plagued by inadequate water supplies or water sources that are difficult to treat, Phillips said. …