Meadville Tribune

November 20, 2007

Water Puzzle: A CNHI Oklahoma Special Project

Download Series Logo

Oklahoma's water glass is either completely full or completely empty. Last year, grueling drought dried up creek beds, turned lush grass to brown and sent some cities scrambling to find drinking water for residents. When rains finally came last spring and summer, parts of Oklahoma were under floodwater, as the state recorded some of its wettest weather in history.

Amid these extremes, Oklahoma has been trying to figure out how its boom-and-bust water supply can hold up amid years of predicted population growth and increased demand. Solutions aren't easy, as they must deal with questions of supply and demand, geography and quality.

As scientists, politicians and planners rewrite the book on water for Oklahoma, CNHI's Oklahoma newspapers take a close look at the issues they face and what is at stake for all of us.

--- + ---

PART ONE: Dry wells and water shortages were far from the minds of most Oklahomans this past spring and summer, when record rains caused widespread flooding. But the state’s water wealth could be a mirage, experts warn. Growing population and increased demand could mean water problems in the future. CAROL COLE-FROWE - NORMAN

GRAPHIC: How much water do we use for everyday activities?/MATT LANE - McALESTER

GRAPHIC: Infobox on what rainfall means to Oklahoma. PAMELA GUMAER - ENID

--- + ---

PART TWO: Oklahoma is blessed with ample water, but not everyone has easy access to it. Differences in geography mean communities must draw water from various sources. All Oklahomans have a few things in common, however: Pressure to keep tabs on how much water is left while balancing various water needs and planning for the future. JACLYN HOUGHTON - OKLAHOMA CITY

SIDEBAR (ADA): Ada has it good. The city sits on top of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer and has plenty of water. Yet facing growing demand, Ada is planning for the day its water will be gone. Some hope to build a 4,700-acre, recreational lake that would also serve as a potential drinking water reservoir. JACLYN HOUGHTON - OKLAHOMA CITY

SIDEBAR (WOODWARD): City Manager Alan Riffel isn't sure how much longer the Ogallala Aquifer will last. He and other city leaders are wondering how they will keep pumps working should water ever become scarce. One idea: Join forces with other communities to build reservoirs. JACLYN HOUGHTON - OKLAHOMA CITY

GRAPHIC: Water levels in all the state's aquifers have fallen in the past five years. PAMELA GUMAER - ENID

--- + ---

PART THREE: Quantity is clearly the state's most pressing water concern. But many areas of Oklahoma face quality issues, as well, as groundwater and surface water is tainted by livestock, rain runoff or naturally occurring pollutants such as arsenic. D.E. SMOOT - MUSKOGEE

--- + ---

PART FOUR: The state's comprehensive water plan will tackle issues of growing demand, competing interests, vulnerability to drought and flooding, environmental protection and economic development when it is published in 2011. One key to the study will be what it says about regionalization and how communities should work together to build new facilities and plan for the future. JON KOCAN - STILLWATER

GRAPHIC: How much water Oklahoma is expected to use for agriculture, power, industry and household in the future. PAMELA GUMAER - ENID

--- + ---

MULTIMEDIA: Geography has everything to do with how Oklahoma communities get their water and how much water is available to them. We visit places where the water flows, and places where it doesn't. JACLYN HOUGHTON - OKLAHOMA CITY