Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Waterlogged: Oklahoma's 2012 CWP Faces Critics before Its Completion

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Waterlogged: Oklahoma's 2012 CWP Faces Critics before Its Completion

Article excerpt

Sometime next month, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board will release a draft of the 2012 Comprehensive Water Plan.

Designed to help legislators plan for future water use, the CWP has become more than just a document outlining ideas for Oklahoma's future water policy. Even before its release to the Legislature, the state's latest water plan has become a political football.

Following last year's sale of the Sardis Reservoir's water storage rights to the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust, many rural lawmakers feared a renewed push to sell surplus water to the state of Texas, specifically the Tarrant Regional Water District.

In an effort to delay what they saw as increasing momentum for a possible water sale, lawmakers from the southeastern part of the state pushed for an update of the CWP before any sale of water was completed.

"Studies must be completed, providing factual scientific data," wrote state Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, a vocal critic of any water sale. "To transfer water before the statewide water study, which was mandated by the Legislature, is completed, would make the study a joke."

Ellis wasn't alone in his call for the study's completion. Political leaders of all stripes - including Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and the leaders of several Native American tribes - called for the completion of the CWP before any new steps were taken.

Their questions were simple: Just how much water does Oklahoma have, and is there a surplus? But the answers to many of those questions, some state documents show, were already available.

Documents from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board - including the 1995 water plan and a status report for the Joint State-Tribal Water Compact - report Oklahoma has millions of gallons of excess surface water.

"An estimated 34 million acre-feet of unused water flows out of the state each year through Oklahoma's two major river basins," according to the OWRB's 1995 CWP.

In addition, a 2002 status report on state and tribal water compacts reported that "southeast Oklahoma is home to abundant, renewable surface water resources." At the same time, the document said consumptive water use in the area was relatively minimal.

"A total of 354,345 acre-feet of both stream and groundwater is authorized for use within the six-basin area but only about one- third of that amount, 117,750 acre-feet, is reported as actually used each year," the report said.

But those plans, Tulsa geologist Robert Jackman charged, were misleading and skewed for political reasons.

"There are a number of details missing," Jackman said. "Those reports don't take into account flow requirements. They are wrong and they are questionable and they were written by the OWRB to support the sale of water."

Jackman said the newest CWP should be peer-reviewed before it is submitted to the Legislature, and the procedure should have been the same as the OWRB's previous studies. …

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