Concern Regarding ‘High-Usage’ Water Customers Grows

The Oklahoma Strategic Alliance met to address growing concern over high-usage customers and systems’ ability to deliver to existing customers.

Throughout the past year across Oklahoma, the rise of high-production, high-input industry operations has placed stress on water systems across Oklahoma, causing water industry leaders to gather to address this rising issue.

A group of leaders including officials from the Oklahoma Rural Water Association, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and system managers met today, May 7, to discuss how to address the high demand for water across the state, all while maintaining a sustainable, long-term ability to provide water to all Oklahomans. 

“As a general rule systems are not prepared for consistent high demands,” said Sheldon Tatum, Hughes County Rural Water District #6, manager and operator. “Water systems were originally designed, engineered and managed to provide water for residential services.” 

Across Oklahoma, water systems face an ever-growing demand for water, some exceeding systems current water rights and far exceeding the system’s infrastructure.

“Water usage, especially ‘high-usage’, and how it is defined and supplied impacts each and every Oklahoman,” said Jimmy Seago, ORWA Deputy CEO. “It impacts industries such as agriculture, construction and commercial businesses, all the way to local residents, touching all points from resource management, policy changes, to the  permitting of said resources.

“Yet, at the end of the day, high-usage draws on water systems must be addressed because we owe it to every Oklahoman to be able to provide the highest quality, safest water supply possible,” Seago said.

The team is working to include all parties that will be impacted as a solution is reached.

“The challenge is, it doesn’t matter if it’s a growhouse, a confined animal feeding operation, a carwash or just a customer with a large garden, if, for example, they utilize 40,000 gallons of water a month, they’re all high-usage customers,” Tatum said. “As we work towards developing a solution to serving our current customers and the occurring high-usage customer, we must be inclusive rather than divisive.”

Oklahoma Strategic Alliance leaders agree, at some point, these issues will more than likely be brought to a legislative body so as to address the demand placed on systems. For the time being, high-usage customers can assist system managers and the system itself by being consistent in their usage and be in regular communication with their water system.

“If you are inconsistent in your usage, it’s hard for us to manage,” Tatum said. “If you have 100,000 gallons one month and five the next, in our business, that indicates problems.”

Members of the Oklahoma Strategic Alliance will continue to monitor high-usage across Oklahoma. Together they plan to bring more entities into the discussion to work towards solutions for all parties involved in the coming months. 

For the latest information on the Oklahoma Strategic Alliance and the discussion around high-usage customers, visit orwa.org

— Written by JD Rosman

The Oklahoma Strategic Alliance was formed in 2019. Governor Kevin Stitt set forth a vision of an agreement committing the Office of the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Rural Water Association, and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to work together to improve the sustainability of Oklahoma rural and small community water and wastewater systems. For more information on the Oklahoma Strategic Alliance contact okalliance@orwa.org

 

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