Water issue debated

City officials discuss options to solve serious dilemma

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By Mindy Ragan Wood
Staff Writer

It’s no secret that municipalities in western Oklahoma are worried about a quality water supply and those in Canadian County are no exception.

Piedmont’s water supply will be inadequate to meet demand if it does not prepare for the inevitable rise in population.

The city could grow to 12,000 people by 2030 with a projected usage of up to 1.7 million gallons per day by 2020. By 2070, the town could grow to a city of 31,000 people.

Piedmont’s master plan, which has not yet been approved by the city council, would need to meet demand for the next 50 years. City council members voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Jason Orr to begin acquiring additional water rights in the Garber Wellington Aquifer.

Current water permits in the Garber Wellington Aquifer the city has through the Oklahoma Water Resource Board is for 521-acre feet of water. The city spends approximately $350,000 to $400,000 a year for Oklahoma City water to dilute arsenic in the Piedmont water supply.

Expanding the city’s permits in the aquifer with a water treatment plan is projected to offset some of the cost to purchase water from Oklahoma City in the future.

“We looked at the city of Oklahoma City. We looked at $3.73 (per 1,000 gallons) in the Garber Wellington plan and you’re looking at purchasing water from the City of Oklahoma City from $6 per 1,000 to $11 per 1,000,” Garver Engineer Mary Mach said. “So that has quite a bit of potential savings where Piedmont would be investing in your infrastructure instead of every dollar you pay to Oklahoma City, you’re essentially investing in their infrastructure.”

The estimated cost in the first five years for the aquifer expansion could cost up to $30 million. The plan would include the installation of wells, water lines, pumps, improved water pressure and an increased water supply. As the community grows, the city could adopt the plan in phases as necessary, costing as much as $66 million with water treatment for each well. Other plans such as the North Canadian River Alluvium cost $98 million.

Mach recommended the council acquire water rights sooner rather than later. “You have to leases to that land or own that land to bring out that water which is below it,” she said.
Councilman John Brown said the time is now because “if you currently own one surface acre (of land) you get the rights to pull two-acre feet of water out.”

The rights in the Garber Wellington Aquifer will soon change to allow one acre of surface land rights for one-acre feet of water, which will cut the allotment of water in half.

“If we purchase rights now, once that is accepted, we will still be grandfathered in at two-acre feet (of water) for every surface acre. It behooves us to purchase water rights now or as soon as possible to lock in those two-acre feet,” Brown said.

While Yukon is juggling several options for water, Okarche is also moving forward with solutions.

Okarche’s water supply has been plagued by nitrates, which it hopes to solve with a microbial system that eliminates the nitrates. The system has been implemented in California and towns across the state are watching for Okarche’s results which will be due in a few weeks.

Like Piedmont, Yukon purchases water from Oklahoma City to dilute the arsenic in its wells. Yukon’s water options are more diverse, but City Manager Jim Crosby said they are not ready to present a plan to the city council.

“We hope to soon,” Crosby said. “There are several options. We’ve talked to Bethany.

They’ve got a lot of water out there and we could work with Bethany with shallow wells out there. Is it going to cost more than if we stay with Oklahoma City in the long run? We could build a water treatment plant or build some shallow wells off the Canadian River but is it too costly? You have to put a pencil to it and trim it.”

Crosby said Mustang has been in talks with Yukon to consider how the two cities could partner to find a water source for both communities. As Crosby and city officials speak to engineers and compare notes with other municipalities, Oklahoma City continues to raise its rates to pay for infrastructure upgrades.

“It goes up every year five to six percent for the next two years,” Crosby said.

Oklahoma City has been in a fight for water from Sardis Lake and the Kiamachi River for its own growing water needs. A group of concerned citizens, the Kiamichi River Legacy

Association, announced in January it intends to sue Oklahoma City for alleged violations of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Oklahoma City pulls water from several lakes which includes Hefner, Overholser, Canton, Draper, McGee Creek and eventually Sardis. The city serves approximately 1.3 million customers in 18 communities.