A state representative from northeast Oklahoma has a plan that could bring excess water from his district to other parts of the state in need of water.
Rep. Doug Cox represents parts of water-rich northeast Oklahoma including Grand Lake and Pensacola Dam. After hearing his colleagues in the state legislature discuss problems with drought in western Oklahoma, Cox began researching the transport of excess water from his area to the rest of the state.
“By excess, I mean water that is sent over our spillways without generating electricity or being sold for consumption or industrial use,” Cox said. “We get rid of an ocean every year over those spillways and just send it downstream.”
While his research began with agriculture, Cox said he soon realized rural water districts were suffering from the high cost of treating drinking water due to increased federal regulations.
“We have so many rural water districts with very few customers, they simply cannot spread that cost out without exorbitant increases,” he said. “My idea is to capture (excess water), pipeline it through the rest of the state–placing the pipeline under present utility easements or highway easements–treat it at various points along the way, and then dispense it to our communities for consumption.”
Cox said his plan, presented at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Legislative Conference March 7, requires building storage facilities and small water treatment facilities throughout the state that would dispense treated excess water to various communities. Creating centralized water treatment facilities would save rural water districts money on treatment costs, allowing them to spend money on infrastructure improvements.
“I envision (storage facilities) as primarily tank farms, similar to what we have in Cushing for the oil industry,” Cox said. “Other possibilities include pumping the raw water into the aquifer and then pumping it out later, or constructing new reservoirs.”
Farmers and ranchers also could benefit from the plan, as Cox said the water could bypass treatment facilities and similarly be transported and stored.
The easiest way to pay for the project would be “to issue bonds and then use the proceeds from the sale of treated water to make the bond payments,” Cox said.
“As the federal government continues to increase treatment regulations and the cost continues to go up and up and up, we’ll have to start looking at such plans by necessity to help our communities and rural water districts,” Cox said. “I’m terming out this session, but hopefully someone will pick up the idea and move it forward.”