Region Needs to Address Water Concerns
Posted: Thursday, March 02, 2006In January, when a rash of wildfires blanketed the region, destroying thousands of acres and claiming lives and property, Gov. Brad Henry set aside a day of prayer for the state. He asked Oklahomans to think about the victims and responders, and then he asked them to pray for rain.
The rain has been scant since and coming off the warmest December in recorded history, along with a mild winter, municipalities in Central Oklahoma need to start addressing water capacity and usage concerns. To rub salt into the wound, experts at the National Climate Prediction Center are forecasting a continued drought for the Southern Plains through April.
La Nina, a “southern oscillation” of wind and pressure in the tropical Pacific has a cyclical tendency to bring dry windy conditions to the south central region of the United States, which may mean that Central Oklahoma could be in the midst of a prolonged dry spell. A study of 100 years of rainfall history also point to a potential dry trend that may last several years.
Last month, drought indicators had Central Oklahoma resting uncomfortably between “extreme” and “exceptional” drought conditions. The dry weather affects foliage, trees and green space and with spring-like temperatures looming, people will soon be watering their lawns in a frenzy. The resulting effect on municipal water plant capacities and water quantity may be dramatic. Already, some municipalities are seeing summer-like readings in usage, and most surface water sources are visibly below average storage capacity.
ACOG is offering advance information on this issue, to avoid confusion that occurred around the region in the summer of 1998, when there was trace precipitation over a 91-day period, while the state staggered through record consecutive triple digit heat.
“Water conservation needs to start now, not when we need it most,” said John Harrington, Water Resources Director for ACOG. “Public awareness of this issue needs to be a coordinated effort among all Central Oklahoma communities.”
Without a coordinated effort, the public remains largely confused because each municipality has different guidelines and programs that vary based on capacity, usage and water source. Conservation efforts, such as rationing can actually be counterproductive in initial stages, as citizens tend to over-consume on their requisite “odd-even” days after a rationing order is declared.
Public and Media Relations
There are other issues that become apparent when municipalities call for rationing. Due to different rationing schemes, the public becomes bemused as to when they can use water outdoors, and when a decree affects them. Neighbors turn on neighbors during these times, while heat and usage can cripple water systems. Further misunderstanding arises between neighbors when one utilizes a private water well, and another uses water provided by a municipality.
Most Central Oklahoma communities fall under five different tiers:
• No rationing plan is implemented
• Voluntary odd-even (address coincides with calendar date)
• Mandatory odd-even
• Mandatory odd-even night only
• No outside watering allowed
ACOG plans to provide a centralized media source for all communities in Central Oklahoma. A weekly update will be produced for media indicating the status of municipal water rationing plans. A page on the ACOG Web site, at www.acogok.org will be dedicated to include a regional map of rationing status, plant capacities and conservation tips.
Now is the time to plan for a long-term regional conservation mindset. ACOG staff will be contacting all communities in coming weeks. Consumers should be encouraged to do their part. There are many online resources that provide great information on this subject.
One Web site, www.wateruseitwisely.com, provides 100 useful tips for consumers on how to save water indoors and externally.
For more information, contact John Harrington or Jerry Church, ACOG.