The following is an op-ed piece by Tom Buchanan, Oklahoma Farm Bureau president and Altus farmer-rancher.
Over the past several years, Oklahoma experienced a severe water drought. While it was relieved last year by heavy rains, our state now faces another crisis: an economic drought.
Beginning Feb. 1, the Oklahoma Legislature will search for answers to the $900 million budget shortfall. But, what if I told you our state watched $4.2 billion flow out of the state last year alone?
Yes, you read that right. $4.2 billion with a B.
With the extreme rainfall in 2015, Oklahoma released approximately 65 million acre feet of water out of its borders. Raw, agricultural water–the cheapest form of water–sells for $65 an acre foot.
Feel free to break out your calculator. Sixty-five million acre feet multiplied times $65 equals $4,225,000,000. That’s more than four times the amount of Oklahoma’s budget shortfall.
Last year’s rainfall was rare; the state is unlikely to see rains like that every year. Yet even in a drought, Oklahoma allowed approximately 20 million acre feet to flow out of the state, worth at least $1.2 billion.
Why don’t we utilize the revenue from that excess water to prepare Oklahomans for the next drought? By growing our water resources, we will create jobs and revenue, leading to economic growth.
It is time for us to stop sitting on our hands and waiting for the rain to fall; as a state, we must take action! By developing Oklahoma’s water, we can help relieve our state’s economic drought.
Water is our state’s most important asset; let’s make sure we steward it wisely. We at Oklahoma Farm Bureau call on our state’s leaders to address how we can best utilize our water resources.