Oklahoma Water News

4th Quarter, 2018

Oklahoma Water Resources Board

Governor Fallin

Governor Mary Fallin addresses a full house during the 2018 Oklahoma Governor's Water Conference, touting the successes of the OCWP, Water for 2060, the Tribal settlement, and the Produced Water Working Group, and challenging the crowd to keep water a priority for all Oklahomans. Seated left to right: Secretary Jim Reese, Secretary Michael Teague, OWRB Chairman Jason Hitch, OWRB Executive Director Julie Cunningham, and Fred Morgan, President & CEO of the Oklahoma State Chamber.

Working closely with Governor Fallin and the state legislature, the OWRB developed new rules to increase available groundwater and water storage options. House Bill 3405 authorizes the state to issue permits for well construction and withdrawal of marginal quality groundwater. The definition of "groundwater" was expanded to include water with greater concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS), and a new definition was added for "marginal water," which includes water that has 5,000 or greater and less than 10,000 parts per million TDS.

The OWRB enacted new rules for implementing the agency's authorized regulation of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) activities. All ASR activities are now to be conducted pursuant to a site-specific plan approved by the OWRB. Following the issuance of an ASR permit, the OWRB will require annual reporting by the permit holder. The OWRB can suspend or cancel ASR permits for non-compliance.

The Produced Water Working Group, coordinated by the OWRB, continued to identify regulatory, technical, and economic options to allow and promote the reuse of produced water. The group is currently considering ways to characterize and inventory brackish water production zones. Industry partners have agreed to contribute data for a pilot project in Kingfisher County.

The OWRB conducted a water planning meeting with Chickasaw and Choctaw representatives to discuss federal funding opportunities and the coordination of technical staff and advisory teams. The OWRB will host a field training session for new Tribal field personnel in the summer of 2019.

The OWRB continued to assist the Grand River Dam Authority with its multi-year regional water plan to improve water management in the region and increase access to water for public water supply, irrigation, recreation, wildlife habitat, and hydropower uses.

Water Rights Administration

The OWRB appropriates fresh water resources as directed by Oklahoma statutes. Currently, there are 13,288 active long-term permits for more than 6.83 million acre-feet per year. The OWRB's permitting staff issued 75 groundwater permits in 2018 totaling 27,853 acre-feet, and 64 stream water permits totaling 106,996 acre-feet, along with 1,461 provisional temporary permits totaling 71,000 acre-feet for oil and gas producers and others in need of a temporary source of water. To support water rights administration, the agency conducted surface water allocation modeling and availability analyses, coordinated statewide water use reporting, and responded to public complaints.

Total Permitted Water by Use in Oklahoma

Total Permitted Water by Use in Oklahoma

Hydrologic Investigations

The OWRB conducts hydrologic investigations as directed by Oklahoma Statutes to determine the amount of fresh groundwater available for appropriation. A priority recommendation of the OCWP focused on addressing the backlog of the required Maximum Annual Yield (MAY) studies and overdue twenty-year updates of the state's groundwater basins. This work is now underway.

The OWRB completed the Rush Springs Aquifer study in 2018, along with a companion report by the US Geological Survey (USGS) on the Rush Springs Aquifer groundwater flow model. The OWRB is currently conducting twenty-year updates of the Elk City Sandstone, Vamoosa-Ada, and the Gerty Sand aquifers, as well as investigations on the Cimarron Alluvium and Terrace and Blaine aquifers.

Aquifer Studies

The OWRB is conducting investigations on the Roubidoux, Boone, Salt Fork of the Red River, Washita River Reach 1, and the Salt Fork of Arkansas River aquifers through contracts with the USGS..

To allow for flexibility in implementing MAY and Equal Proportionate Share (EPS) for groundwater basins, Senate Bill 1294 modified Oklahoma Groundwater Law, giving the OWRB discretion to delay or to gradually implement annual withdrawal limits when it determines MAY and EPS if 25% or less of the MAY has been allocated. Any delayed or gradual implementation of withdrawal limits will be accomplished through temporary permits and will not affect regular groundwater permits. Additional changes include authorization of the OWRB to enact well spacing rules over a groundwater basin prior to setting a MAY and EPS, which adds protection for existing domestic and permitted wells. Finally, new language states that subsequent or updated hydrologic surveys on already-studied groundwater basins will not affect previously-issued regular permits for groundwater use.

Aquifer Studies

The OWRB continues collaborative work with the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), Foss Reservoir Master Conservancy District (MCD), and Fort Cobb MCD on the Upper Washita Basin Study, scheduled for completion in 2020. The OWRB is also collaborating with the USBR, Lugert-Altus Irrigation District (Lugert-Altus Reservoir), and Mountain Park MCD (Tom Steed Reservoir) on the Upper Red River Basin Study, scheduled for completion in 2019.

The OWRB completed dependable yield studies of three sole-source supply lakes for the communities of Hominy, Langston, and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in 2018. The OWRB performed bathymetric studies (lake floor contours) to get an accurate volume of the lakes at any water level. CH2M engineers, funded in part by the US Army Corps of Engineers Planning Assistance to States grant, used this data and OWRB historical use reports to estimate the amount of water these communities can rely upon in the worst drought on record to plan their future projects accordingly. The OWRB will meet with these water systems in the spring to discuss study results.

Langton Lake Contours

Water & Wastewater System Financing

Okmulgee Co RWD #5 Big Check

As the State's primary water and wastewater infrastructure financing agency, the OWRB has provided over $4.1 billion in financing to Oklahoma communities, rural water districts, schools, and other authorities at an estimated savings of $1.3 billion over conventional bond financing.

The success of the program is due to the continued achievement of AAA bond ratings, an extremely strong loss coverage score, management and oversight of the program, and a long history of borrower repayment.


The programs protect the health and safety of Oklahomans by providing funding to meet the critical need for safe drinking water supplies and adequate wastewater treatment.

In 2018, the OWRB approved 32 loans and 15 grants totaling $286.2 million to fund public water/wastewater infrastructure improvements with an estimated savings of $22.4 million as compared to traditional financing.

Cumulative Investments in OWRB Infrastructure Financing

Cumulative Investments in OWRB Infrastructure Financing Chart

Cumulative investments in OWRB infrastructure financing. Since 1984, the OWRB has leveraged $114 million in state funds and $640 million in federal funds with $2.15 billion in bonds to expand available financing for infrastructure projects in Oklahoma communities.

In cooperation with the Oklahoma Rural Water Association (ORWA), the OWRB provided 62 training sessions and 154 technical assistance visits to communities. Additionally, through partnerships with the ORWA and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the OWRB assisted with long-range system planning for three communities.

Dam Safety

The OWRB ensures the safety of more than 4,700 dams across the state as directed by the Oklahoma Dam Safety Act. Additionally, OWRB staff maintain Oklahoma's portion of the National Inventory of Dams, oversee approval for construction or modification of structures, coordinate breach inundation mapping, inspect low hazard-potential dams, and provide public outreach and training.

Dams under OWRB's jurisdiction

NRCS, State, and privately owned dams under the jurisdiction of the OWRB's Dam Safety program.

Dam Safety Fieldwork

In 2018, the OWRB approved six applications to construct, repair, or modify dams. The OWRB and Oklahoma Real Estate Commission partnered to increase dam safety awareness in the real estate community by adding new language in the real estate disclosure form. OWRB dam safety workshops were attended by more than 100 real estate agents, local officials, dam owners, and engineers. OWRB staff provided breach inundation maps and inspection reports to 20 dam owners.

Floodplain Management

Floodplain Class

The OWRB acts as the State Floodplain Board and the National Flood Insurance Program coordinating agency as directed by the Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act. The OWRB assists communities in reducing costly flooding risks to life and property by updating flood maps through FEMA programs and providing opportunities for training and accreditation of local floodplain administrators.

The OWRB worked closely with communities throughout the state in 2018 to identify flood risks and update flood maps through FEMA's Cooperating Technical Partners program. OWRB staff conducted 10 new Community Assistance Visits (CAVs) and 50 Community Assistance Contacts, successfully closed 31 outstanding CAVs and doubled the local floodplain administrator accreditation rate.

Well Driller & Pump Installer Licensing

OGWA Workshop

The OWRB protects Oklahoma's groundwater from contamination by ensuring the integrity of water well construction through the licensing of well drillers and pump installers as directed by Oklahoma Statutes. Currently there are 308 active well drillers and 378 pump installers licensed by the OWRB. The OWRB frequently assists drillers with required well log reporting; more than 190,000 well logs are available to the public online.

In 2018, the OWRB cooperated with the Oklahoma Ground Water Association to conduct 14 continuing education training sessions for drillers to meet licensing requirements. The OWRB continues to work with the Well Driller Advisory Council and stakeholders to develop, update, and advance water well drilling rules.

Water Quality Standards

The OWRB promulgates Oklahoma's Water Quality Standards (WQS) as directed by Oklahoma Statutes. The WQS have been developed in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act. In 2018, proposed amendments to Oklahoma's WQS included a comprehensive revision of Oklahoma's antidegradation implementation guidance. The guidance updated implementation for all waterbody tiers. Additionally, the OWRB created implementation rules for designating waters for Sensitive Water Supply–Reuse.

Little Niagara

To begin implementing the recommendations from the recently completed Second Joint Study on the Illinois River Watershed, Oklahoma and Arkansas signed a Memorandum of Agreement outlining measures necessary to protect scenic river designations and overall stream health. As part of this agreement, the states will develop a Monitoring and Assessment Workgroup. Additional partners include the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Grand River Dam Authority, and Cherokee Nation.

Water Monitoring and Lake Restoration

The OWRB administers the statewide beneficial use monitoring program (BUMP) as directed by Oklahoma Statutes, and acts as the lead agency for administering a statewide program for assessing, monitoring, studying, and restoring Oklahoma lakes. The OWRB submits a biennial report to the Oklahoma Legislature, also directed by Oklahoma Statutes, discussing the status of water quality monitoring in Oklahoma.

Water Monitoring Fieldwork

The OWRB partners with the USGS to manage Oklahoma's Cooperative Stream Gaging program; these data are used to meet compliance with four federal interstate stream compact agreements and to guide the management of local and regional public water suppliers, including flood and drought planning, early warnings, and emergency operations.

In 2018, the OWRB conducted monitoring on 40 lakes, 84 stream sites, and more than 1,000 groundwater wells across the state. Additional monitoring projects during the year included the assessment of baseline characteristics of riverine and oxbow lakes, watershed stormwater monitoring at Lake Thunderbird, watershed and in-lake monitoring at Lake Arcadia, bathymetric mapping of lakes across the state, and real-time monitoring in the Grand/Neosho River Watershed.

Water Resource Mapping

The OWRB uses standard and customized GIS applications to create, analyze, and display water-related spatial data and make it available to the public.

In 2018, OWRB staff began using web-based GIS applications to record water level measurements and other data in the field, improving efficiency and reducing the chance for errors. OWRB GIS specialists developed and refined automated workflows to assist in the water rights permitting process. The OWRB continued to map water, wastewater, stormwater, and water reuse infrastructure for small public water and wastewater systems, making the data available to the systems on secure map viewers.

Interstate Stream Compact Commissions

Interstate Stream Compacts

The OWRB represents Oklahoma's interests on four separate interstate stream compact commissions regarding all the surface waters that flow into or out of the state. The compacts are written agreements among or between Oklahoma's neighboring states that have been approved by the US Congress, enacted in Federal statutes, and enacted in the statutes of each state.

Top Workplace

Top Workplaces

In 2018, the OWRB received its third consecutive Certified Healthy Business Award and its sixth consecutive Top Workplaces Award (based on anonymous employee surveys).

Document Imaging

Nearly 100% of agency documents have been digitized and stored in an electronic filing system, improving staff productivity by streamlining workflows, and saving money by minimizing equipment needs and office space requirements.

Permitting and Licensing Applications

An online application system allows the OWRB to expedite temporary water use permits for energy production and other short-term uses. Web-based applications are under development that will allow well drillers and pump installers to apply for or renew their licenses and water rights holders to file annual water use reports.

Infrastructure Solutions and Financing Software

The Oklahoma Advantages Assessment and Scoring for Infrastructure Solutions (OASIS) tool helps municipalities plan for future needs and communicate infrastructure investment opportunities to constituents and decision-makers. Infrastructure Financing Software (IFS) tracks the agency's complex funding system, including more than $4.1 billion in approved projects to date.

GIS-Based Data Collection and Customized Map Viewers

OWRB staff perform investigations more efficiently and accurately with GIS-based applications and tools. Online mapping tools provide customers with mobile-friendly map viewers and downloadable data.

Customer Service and Public Outreach

The OWRB conducts numerous focus groups and public meetings through partnerships with public and private interest groups with the goal of improving customer service.

Savings Through Web-Based Training

The OWRB saves money and travel expenses by utilizing free and low-cost online training opportunities. The OWRB now hosts online webinars to educate the public on specific programs, saving additional money on training space rental fees.

Leveraging Funds

The OWRB leverages federal and local funding partnerships for state programs to continue implementation of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan recommendations. Funding partners include the USEPA, USGS, USDA NRCS, USBR, USACE, FEMA, Groundwater Protection Council, ODEQ, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Grand River Dam Authority, multiple Tribal partners, and many others.

American Water Enterprises

American Water Enterprises (AWE) received an award for the Fort Sill U.S. Army Installation Water Reuse Project. As Fort Sill's water and wastewater service provider, AWE determined that the high quality effluent produced by the Fort Sill Wastewater Treatment Plan could be reused in several areas of the base where potable quality water was not required. With the support of Fort Sill leadership, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), and engineering consultants, AWE implemented a water reuse system to provide water for geothermal units, cooling towers, irrigation systems, and fill points throughout base.

American Water Enterprises

Elevated storage tower with purple (reclaimed water) pipe and irrigation of Fort Sill's polo fields.

Fort Sill also received the State's first ever Category 2 Reuse Permit from the ODEQ, which allows unrestricted irrigation of Fort Sill's polo fields, the Cemetery, and the Horse Corral with reclaimed water. To date, AWE has installed more than four miles of reuse piping, a purple elevated storage tower, and a pump station to support the program.

By decreasing demand on Fort Sill's water supply provider, the City of Lawton, this project provides the added benefit of improving the system's drought resiliency. The project is an excellent example of meeting existing water needs through innovative thinking to decrease fresh water use.

Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District

The Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District won an award for the Waurika Lake Water Intake Channel Maintenance Dredging and Resiliency Project. Built in 1977 by the US Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and public water supply, Waurika Lake has become a critical regional surface water supply lake in southwest Oklahoma. The lake directly serves six cities in four counties and indirectly serves up to eleven counties via cities and rural water districts.

During the recent multi-year drought period, the lake experienced severe water level declines. By the summer of 2013, the bottom third of the lake was unavailable for water supply due to sedimentation deposits, and the top third of the lake was rapidly becoming unavailable due to evaporation and deteriorating water quality at the static intake.

Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District Project

Waurika Lake Intake Channel Maintenance Dredging and Resiliency Project.

To combat these problems and greatly expand the lake's ability to meet growing demand, the project included installation of an innovative floating intake that can withdraw up to 30 million gallons per day, which gave the water system access to the entire conservation pool, including the highest quality water in the lake. The project also included removal and replacement of all six intake structure slide gates, dredging sediment in the intake channel, and extending the lower intake structure gates into the middle of the lake. This project directly provided more than 25,000 acre-feet of water supply that was blocked by the sediment deposits at the static intake, which is water supply that would have had to come from other sources. As a result, Waurika Lake is now sustainable throughout a drought cycle.

Fred Fischer, Flatland Farms

An award was presented to Fred Fischer of Flatland Farms, a wheat, milo, and corn production farm just west of Hooker. During the past several decades, the farm has been a part of a shift toward using new technology to improve irrigation practices and ultimately make better use of the water drawn from the Ogallala aquifer.

Mr. Fischer has implemented many practices to reduce waste and improve the ratio of grain produced to water consumed. In 2011, sprinkler monitoring devices were installed on all pivots with GPS integration and variable rate technology, allowing remote control of the basic functions of pivots, including alerts when a system malfunctions. In 2012, sub-surface drip irrigation was installed in several areas, allowing water to be released 18 inches below the surface, a practice that proved to increase water efficiency by significantly reducing evaporation.

Fred Fischer, Flatland Farms

Installation of drip irrigation system at Flatland Farms.

Multiple years of data from yield maps were combined with mapping of soils and topography across the farm in 2014. These data were used to implement variable rate fertilizing, as well as variable rate seeding, which increased yield without increasing water consumption. Improvements and enhancements to the system are ongoing and have been vital to saving water and reducing production costs. According to university studies, the use of these technologies have led to water savings of approximately 40%. More bushels of grain are produced with the same amount of water, benefiting the aquifer as well as local and state economies.

In 2014, Mr. Fischer gave a presentation to the Water for 2060 Advisory Council, discussing ideas for inclusion in their report. Later that year, members were given a tour of his farm to see his irrigation technology in person. Mr. Fischer is one of many Panhandle farmers who have significantly reduced water use by using the latest technologies, and continue to be excellent stewards of their water resources to ensure supplies are available for future generations.

The OWRB would like to congratulate all the winners and thank all who participated in this year's Award ceremony.

Rudy Herrmann Water Pioneer

Julie Cunningham, Deb Herrmann, Rudy Herrmann, and Jason Hitch.

Rudy Herrmmann

Rudy Herrmann was appointed to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) in 2004 and served for eleven years, including six years as chairman. Mr. Herrmann adamantly supported the OWRB's efforts to obtain funding for the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan update, complete the multi-year plan as designed and on time, and implement its priority recommendations, including passage of the Water for 2060 Act, which will benefit the citizens of Oklahoma today and for generations to come. Mr. Herrmann also was instrumental in the passage of the Maximum Annual Yield determination for the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer and obtaining a favorable ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann case.

Mr. Herrmann was known for being fair and decisive, patiently ensuring that all parties were heard, strictly adhering to the statutes governing the Board, and maintaining a clear vision and devotion to the proper use and protection of Oklahoma's water.

Mr. Herrmann provided unwavering support for OWRB staff, and his strong leadership and experience in strategic planning proved to be invaluable for the agency.

Arthur Wayne Sloan

Arthur Wayne "Dub" Sloan of Gore devoted his lifelong career in agriculture to responsible stewardship through water and soil conservation efforts. In the 1950s, he recognized that his farm was using lots of water that could be reduced by installing center pivots.

Dub Sloan Water Pioneer

Front: Arthur and Phyllis Sloan; back: Julie Cunningham, Jason Hitch, and Sec. Jim Reese.

By the mid-1990s, Mr. Sloan became the first farmer in the area to practice no-till farming, and he has since remained 100% no-till for soybeans and winter wheat. Mr. Sloan also became the first in the area to adopt precision-guided tractors and yield monitors. Buffer strips have been applied between washes to prevent erosion and nutrient run-off. Furthermore, cover crops have been implemented on his farm to retain nutrients.

Because of the excessive rain in 2015, Mr. Sloan was one of the first in the state to install tile drainage. The Sloans utilize the drainage to address excess standing water and eliminate excessive runoff from the top of the field.

Mr. Sloan has partnered with the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge for many decades to plant crops, and he leaves a portion standing for the wildlife to graze. He has been described by many as a well-respected leader and mentor who is at the forefront of change, most notably change that centers on the more responsible use of water. His legacy and ideas continue to make farming more efficient in the region and help others reach his goal of leaving the land and water resources "better than we find them" for future generations.

FA Loans—389 totaling $1,147,685,000

The OWRB's Financial Assistance Program (FAP), created by the State Legislature in 1979, provides loans for water and wastewater system improvements in Oklahoma. The tremendous popularity of the bond loan program is due, in part, to extended payoff periods of up to 30 years at very competitive interest rates.

CWSRF Loans—332 totaling $1,603,278,827

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) loan program was created in 1988 to provide a renewable financing source for communities to use for their wastewater infrastructure needs. The CWSRF program is Oklahoma's largest self-supporting wastewater financing effort, providing low-interest loans to communities in need.

DWSRF Loans—205 totaling $1,310,053,800

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) loan program is an initiative of the OWRB and ODEQ to assist municipalities and rural water districts in the construction and improvement of drinking water systems. These projects are often mandated for communities to obtain compliance with increasingly stringent federal standards related to the treatment of drinking water.

REAP Grants—682 totaling $60,462,050

The Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) Program was created by the State Legislature in 1996. REAP grants, used for water/wastewater system improvements, primarily target rural communities with populations of 7,000 or less, but priority is afforded to those with fewer than 1,750 inhabitants.

Drought Response Program Grants—6 totaling $418,848

Through the OWRB's Drought Response Program, funding is available for communities in most dire need during state drought emergencies declared by the Governor. A maximum of $300,000 is diverted from existing OWRB Emergency Grant proceeds to fund the Program.

Emergency Grants—580 totaling $34,433,043

Emergency grants, limited to $100,000, are awarded to correct situations constituting a threat to life, health, or property and are an indispensable component of the agency's financial assistance strategy.

Water for 2060 Grants—4 totaling $1,500,000

Through the Water for 2060 Grant Program, funding was available in 2015 for municipalities, counties, water/sewer districts and other public entities for projects that highlight the responsible use of water.

Emergency Drought Relief Grants—4 totaling $1,125,000

Through the Emergency Drought Relief Grant Program, funding was provided in 2013 by the Legislature via the Emergency Drought Relief Commission to address severe drought issues in specific Oklahoma counties.

FA Loans & Grants Map

Total Loans/Grants Approved: 2,202 totaling $4,158,956,567
Estimated Savings: $1,394,595,382

Applicants eligible for water/wastewater project financial assistance vary according to the specific program's purpose and requirements, but include towns and other municipalities with proper legal authority, various districts established under Title 82 of Oklahoma Statutes (rural water, master/water conservancy, rural sewage, and irrigation districts), counties, public works authorities, and/or school districts. Applications for agency financial assistance programs are evaluated individually by agency staff. Those meeting specific program requirements are recommended by staff for approval at monthly meetings of the nine-member Water Board. For more information, call (405) 530-8800 or go to www.owrb.ok.gov/financing.