Oklahoma Water News

2nd Quarter, 2019

Oklahoma Water Resources Board

SB568 creates the Phase II Arbuckle-Simpson Hydrology Study Revolving Fund, administered by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB). The US Geological Survey, in conjunction with the OWRB, has prepared a scope of work for the study, and the cost will be shared between local, state, tribal, and federal sources.

HB2471 places a moratorium on the issuance of new mining permits by the OWRB, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, and the Oklahoma Department of Mines in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer area pending completion of the study no later than 2030.

SB998 defines the taking and use of marginal water to be of beneficial use and not waste, within certain limitations and standards. HB3405, approved last year, allows the OWRB to permit the use of marginal water. The OWRB recently amended Chapter 30 to define marginal water as water that has at least 5,000 but less than 10,000 parts per million total dissolved solids. Well construction standards in Chapter 35 were amended to include marginal quality water wells in order to protect fresh water zones. Later this year, the OWRB will promulgate rules in response to SB998 to incentivize the use of marginal water in lieu of fresh water for nondomestic purposes.

HB2263, or the Groundwater Irrigation District Act, allows ten or more groundwater permit holders in one or more adjacent counties to propose the organization of a groundwater irrigation district. The district board, appointed by the county board of commissioners, will have the authority to seek grant funding for conservation-minded groundwater irrigation equipment, such as subsurface drip lines. The Act also authorizes the OWRB to promulgate rules for such districts.

SB539 extends the OWRB's use of Gross Production Tax revenue through 2022 to fund the continued implementation of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP), as well as related statutorily-mandated hydrologic studies. The OWRB is currently developing the scope of work and partnering with the US Army Corps of Engineers to secure additional funding for the 2023 Update of the OCWP. Hydrologic studies scheduled to be completed by 2022 include the following aquifers:

  • Boone/Roubidoux

  • Blaine

  • Red River A&T

  • Salt Fork of the Arkansas A&T

  • Arkansas A&T

  • Washita A&T Reach 1, 3, and 4

  • Ada-Vamoosa

  • North Canadian A&T Reach 3a and 3b

HB2474 directs the OWRB to maintain an online list of pending water use permit applications, available here, in addition to the traditional newspaper publication notice required of applicants. As before, the thirty-day protest period begins on the date of the first newspaper publication.

Oklahoma CWSRF Logo

Water Infrastructure Financing

The OWRB's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan program holds a 30% above national average return on federal investment at $3.4 to $1, and has maintained its AAA rating since 2001, providing dependable, low-cost financing to water systems statewide. Due to this reputation for customer-focused solutions, the OWRB was selected by the EPA in 2018 to create a template marketing plan for SRF programs across the country.

Water for 2060 Logo

Water Use Efficiency and Developing New Sources

The recommendations of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan led Oklahoma to become the first state to adopt a water-neutral use goal with the 2012 Water for 2060 Act, which focuses on growing the economy while encouraging water conservation, efficiency, and reuse. To accomplish these goals, the OWRB and partners are conducting studies on the development of untapped water source types and increasing statewide water storage capacity.

Oil and Gas Produced Water Innovation

The OWRB chairs the Oklahoma Produced Water Working Group that facilitates collaboration with partners in industry, regulatory agencies, academia, and nongovernmental organizations to solve national issues surrounding produced water management and modernize policy to promote water reuse as an alternative to underground disposal wells.

Floodplain Management Class

The OWRB's Aaron Milligan teaches a continuing education course on floodplain management.

Floodplain Management

The OWRB surpasses standards for delivery of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program assistance to communities through the agency's floodplain administrator accreditation and continuing education program, which places them far ahead of the curve with the most up-to-date resources for the prevention and mitigation of catastrophic effects of flooding disasters.

Fresh Water Science Collaboration

The OWRB provides executive leadership and guidance for lake managers and other water quality professionals through the North American Lake Management Society and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council. Due to the OWRB's reputation for providing high-level, long-term water quality and quantity data, the agency was selected by the EPA to train other states on National Aquatics Resource Surveys. In addition, the agency was selected by the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations to provide training and coordinate water quantity and quality monitoring, assessment, and planning activities to ensure the effective utilization of state and tribal nation resources.

Water System Map

Water System Map.

Digital Transformation and GIS Products

The OWRB was recently recognized by the EPA as a leader in the development of electronic filing and workflow automation, which expedites loan applications and long-term loan servicing, allows federal auditors remote access to files, and saves taxpayer dollars at the state and national level. The National Rural Water Association recently asked the OWRB to educate state rural water associations and system administrators across the country on the agency's water infrastructure asset management assistance, which provides digital, geo-located asset inventory maps and customizable access used for asset planning and financing analysis.

Flooded Well

A flooded observation well.

If a groundwater wellhead is inadequately capped or is damaged during a flood event, sediment and debris may enter the well. Floodwater may also carry pathogens from human and animal fecal matter, such as E. coli, that can contaminate a well. The well must be considered unsafe until it has been checked for damage, repaired if necessary, and properly disinfected. It is extremely important not to use the well until lab results are negative for bacterial contamination.

Remediating a Flooded Well

Warning: Flooded wells can be a shock hazard! Do not approach the pump while the wellhead is submerged.

Once the floodwaters have receded and it is safe to approach the wellhead, check the casing material, discharge lines, and cap for cracks, leaks, or other physical damage. Also check that the wellhead is rigid and not wobbly, which could indicate damage to the grout surface seal. If there is any indication of damage, or it is suspected that debris has entered the well, the OWRB recommends that a licensed water well contractor be retained for repairs and disinfection.

Flooded Well

Flood debris on an observation well.

Once the well has been properly disinfected, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) State Laboratory should be contacted for a home water well test kit. The ODEQ is offering free testing for flooded wells until August 15, 2019. Again, the well should not be used until a negative bacterial test result indicates successful disinfection of the well.

Know the Flood Risk

In order to protect water wells from the effects of flood waters it is critical that wells meet the minimum construction standards set in Chapter 35 of the OWRB rules and regulations. This includes regulations covering casing size and material, surface seal installation, and the inclusion of a proper sanitary cap. It is also beneficial to avoid constructing wells in areas of a property that are prone to flooding and runoff. Additionally, when licensed water well contractors install a well in an area where flooding is known to occur, the casing must extend 24 inches above the maximum level of such flooding.

It is important to note that wells constructed in a regulated floodplain may constitute "Floodplain Development" and require additional permitting to ensure that the top of the well casing extends high enough to avoid being overtopped by a 100-year flood. A well in a flood-prone area should have additional wellhead protection, such as a sturdy fence, to prevent flood debris from striking the well.

Check the OWRB's Special Flood Hazard Areas map to see if your well is in a flood-prone area.

If your community belongs to the NFIP, you can get detailed flood risk information from your state-accredited Floodplain Administrator.

Additional Resources

Please refer to the links below for more information.

If you have questions regarding flooded wells, please contact Charlie O'Malley, Well Drilling and Pump Installation Program Coordinator at charles.omalley@owrb.ok.gov or (405) 530-8853.

Data Collection Lines

Boomer Lake shoreline boundary and data collection lines.


Before visiting a lake, OWRB staff refer to aerial and lidar imagery to produce a shoreline boundary file of the lake's highest water level. This estimation of the lake's contours is used to plot data collection lines, which determine the course staff will take in the boat.

Hydrographic Survey Vessel

Hydrographic survey vessel.

Boomer Lake data

Boomer Lake bathymetric survey data in GIS.


The equipment on a hydrographic survey vessel is highly specialized to provide the most accurate data possible. This includes a differential GPS that corrects the boat's position down to the submeter. For reference, the GPS in a smart phone typically has a range of 15-20 meters. The boat is also equipped with a scientific-grade echocsounder that records to 2,000 feet below the lake surface and is accurate to within one-tenth of a foot. A RoxAnn Seabed ID uses sound pulses to value the hardness and roughness of the lakebed, and can determine if the boat is above gravel, sand, or mud. The motion referencing unit (MRU) corrects data for the heave, yaw, pitch, and roll of the boat. A profiling sound velocimeter measures the speed of sound through the water column and provides real-time data correction.

To make sure the data collected are accurate, staff perform several quality control measures prior to setting course. The current lake elevation is recorded and serves as the zero-point in reference to the depths that will be collected. Staff also perform a "bar check" by dropping a solid steel bar at the end of a measured cable to the lake bottom to confirm that the echosounder is reading correctly. A latency check ensures that the boat's equipment is reading depth and location at the same time, down to the millisecond. Lastly, dynamic draft is enabled to correct boat depth recordings based on the speed measured by the on-board GPS.


Postprocessing includes cleaning up obvious errors in the data, such as when fish or air bubbles are detected instead of the lake bottom. With about one data point collected every half foot during the surveying stage, it is easy to find these outliers on a profile graph.

Raw Data
Postprocessed Data

Raw data (top). Postprocessed data (bottom).

Boomer Lake shaded relief map

Boomer Lake shaded relief map.


Staff combine the postprocessed data with available lidar and aerial imagery to make contour maps, shaded relief maps, and tables. The data are also used to calculate lake volume and area elevation.

Recent Bathymetric Studies

OWRB staff mapped 15 lakes in the last 5 years for the ODEQ's Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Mitigation Project. Staff also assisted with the Waurika Dredging Project by measuring the pre- and post-dredged volume of sediment. The measurements and figures provided to the Waurika Lake Master Conservancy District and US Army Corps of Engineers were used to calculate the contractor's payment. Additionally, staff used the RoxAnn and Sidescan units to map recently-dredged boat dock channels as well as the sediment type around the perimeter of Grand Lake for the GRDA's Shoreline Project.

In total, the OWRB has mapped 48 lakes in the past 10 years. Nineteen additional lakes have bathymetric maps on file that are more than 10 years old, which need to be remapped due to sedimentation.

Who uses this data?

Federal and state agencies, municipalities, universities, lake and fishery managers, and citizens use the OWRB's bathymetric data for assessments, management, research, modeling, and recreation. Additionally, OWRB staff use it in DO assessments, firm yields, indirect potable reuse models, sedimentation analysis, permitting, and publications like Lakes of Oklahoma.

The design life of a lake is 50 years. Yield studies determine how much water a community can use. The value of bathymetric mapping is in comparing new studies to old studies for calculating (instead of estimating) sedimentation rates.

Obtaining accurate storage volumes for lakes is an integral tool for water resources management. The valuable information that a bathymetric survey produces can be used by State and Federal Agencies for determining TMDLs, dam breach analysis, and watershed monitoring and management; municipalities to help determine the amount of water a lake can yield in the driest of times (reliable yield); fisheries managers to help determine fish stocking quotas, provide an estimate of lake volume for chemical rehabilitation projects and vegetation control, and calculate potential yield of fish; and anglers to find sunken points, drop-offs, mud flats, and other features.

Bathymetric maps and datasets are available on the OWRB's website at www.owrb.ok.gov/bathymetry.

FA Loans—393 totaling $1,245,605,000

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—340 totaling $1,675,594,827

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—209 totaling $1,346,591,980

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—693 totaling $61,581,042

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—581 totaling $34,557,943

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: 2,231 totaling $4,366,974,640
Estimated Savings: $1,458,866,641

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.