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Despite Spring Storms, Oklahoma Drought Continues

Despite Spring Storms, Oklahoma Drought Continues

Oklahoma has experience some spring storms lately but it hasn’t been enough to pull the state out of the drought. Drought conditions have actually worsened slightly for the state. Thankfully we are doing better than a year ago but not by much.

Wheat crops are starting to green up and they will require rain over the next few months for a healthy crop. Last year was Oklahoma’s worse wheat crop since 1957 so farmers are anxiously watching the weather and hoping for rain.


Many parts of the state are experiencing water supply issues. Due to lakes levels throughout the state being below normal. The following are currently the lowest.

  • Lugert-Altus Lake: 31 feet below normal
  • Foss Lake: 20 feet below normal
  • Waurika Lake: 19 feet below normal
  • Tom Steed Lake: 17 feet below normal
  • Skiatook Late: 17 feet below normal

Oklahoma also has been experiencing abnormal heat. It was 96 degrees in Alva on Monday, April 6th. That ties for the 17th highest recorded temperature for all April 6s dating back to the late 1880’s.

This is due to a dry line that has been in place. The dry line and lots of moisture is also expected to bring us storms over the next couple of days. Tornadoes and other severe weather will be possible.

According to the latest weather briefing from the US National Weather Service in Norman, Wednesday, there is an enhanced risk of severe weather for parts of the state. There is a smaller chance for severe weather on Thursday, mostly in south eastern Oklahoma.

The highest chance of storms is not in the area of the state that is most in need of the rain. This has been a problem for years.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit- The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.

Drought Continues Despite Recent Rain

drought

Click for full image

Recent rain has almost doubled the amount of the state not experiencing drought. Central Oklahoma received 3-6+ inches of rain last week. However, nearly 90 percent of the state is still abnormally dry or experiencing drought conditions. Just under 6 percent of the state is currently in the worst stage of drought, exceptional.

It’s pretty unusual for Oklahoma to receive relief like this during the summer month so any improvement in drought conditions is welcome! And more rain is on the way, as well as cooler temperature.

The long term drought forecast looks bleak for states like California and Texas, with the outlook showing the drought intensifying. The outlook for Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona looks more promising.


Water conservation is still key around the state as many of our lakes are still very low. And water concerns continue around the state and the country.

Check out some of our simple water conservation tips to help with the on-going water crisis. And share your tips in the comments below or on our Facebook page

Protect Our Lakes, Conserve Resources

conserveOklahoma has been experience a drought for the last several years. Currently over 60 percent of the state is abnormally dry or worse. The drought conditions have left Oklahoma’s lakes in bad shape. Citizens are very concerned about water levels in Lake Texoma and many other lakes around the state.

A group of over 20,000 people have “liked” the Facebook page, Save Lake Texoma. While this group started because of a rumor that is untrue, it’s great to see people concerned about what’s going on in the state due to prolonged drought.

There are ways we can help save our lakes. Lakes like Lake Texoma provide water to towns and industries. Lake Texoma and some of the other lakes in Oklahoma also provide electricity. By conserving water and electricity we can reduce the amount of water needed from the lakes, helping conserve the remaining water.


The long term forecast doesn’t look good for Oklahoma’s drought situation. Conservation is going to become more and more necessary as time goes on. Many towns are already struggling to find enough water. Oklahoma City is working to combat this by encouraging conservation through even/odd watering days and offering discounted rain barrels to citizens.

How You Can Help

We don’t have to wait for our cities to encourage us to conserve, we can start now. There are many great ways to conserve water and energy. Here are five easy tips to get you started conserving today.

  1. Turn off the water while brushing and saving. This can save you around four gallons of water every time you brush!
  2. Stop vampire energy. Many electronics continue to use energy even when not in use, this is called vampire energy. Prevent this by unplugging items when not in use. You can also use a power strip and just flip the switch when done.
  3. Switch to CFL or LED light bulbs. While these bulbs cost more initially, they save you money on your electric bill and also last much longer than traditional bulbs. Don’t forget to recycle your CFLs because they contain a small amount of mercury. If you want to avoid the mercury, choose LED bulbs.
  4. Check for leaks in your toilet. Place a few drops of food coloring in the tank, leave it for a few hours, and if you see any in the bowl without flushing then you have a leak. Fixing toilet leaks can save around 200 gallons of water a day. And don’t forget to fix those leaky faucets ASAP.
  5. Only run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machines. It can be tempting to just go ahead and run the dishwasher even though it’s not full, or wash your favorite jeans even though you don’t have a full load. However, this wastes a lot of energy and water, so avoid the temptation.

For more tips check out Ways to Conserve Water and 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Electric Bill. Also share your tips below and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit- Dripping Faucet: Doladimeji, Power Lines: Altair, Lake: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District (USACE)

Citizens Concerned About Low Water Levels in Lake Texoma

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Lake Texoma is down to 609 feet- the lowest it’s been in more than 40 years. The low water levels have caused many of the boat ramps in the lake to be closed. With lake season slowly approaching, many business owners are concerned.

The low water levels started a rumor that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are intentionally draining the lake to supply power to Dallas. The rumor even sparked the creation of a Facebook page called Save Lake Texoma. The page currently has more than 20,000 likes. They say the page was created to “stop the draining of Lake Texoma.”


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District (USACE) released a press release to address the concerns and rumors. They acknowledged that there are negative impacts associated with the low water levels at Lake Texoma. They said that hydropower and municipal and industrial water supply usage contributes to the low water levels, but went on to say the lake remains critical in meeting electricity and water needs.

Many factors are contributing to the low lake levels. The multi-year extreme drought, below average rainfall since 2009, and significant evaporation losses are all to blame.

“Lake Texoma has significant power and water supply storage that is congressionally authorized for use and paid for by the users,” said Col. Richard Pratt, commander, USACE Tulsa District. “In times of drought, this storage is required to consistently provide water and electricity to the region and this results in a lower lake level. The entities that have water contract agreements with the Corps have a right to their water, and we all acknowledge that fact while emphasizing conservation to limit the long-lasting negative effects on fish, wildlife, and recreational activities.”

 

Concerned citizens contacted Ralph Hall, U.S. Representative for Texas’ 4th District, about Lake Texoma’s low water levels, and he contacted USACE. All of the groups involved are working to manage the water storage issue.

“Throughout my years in public service, I have had a good working relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers and hold great respect for them due to their knowledge, adherence to the law, and willingness to work collaboratively in order to best serve the American people,” said Hall. “I appreciate the Corps’ efforts on this issue, and I will continue to stay engaged with them as we work to help the people of Texoma during these difficult times of drought. We owe it to the good folks of Texoma to work together and be supportive of efforts that work towards maximum appreciation and use of this great body of water – one of the great lakes of our nation.”

The lake is currently in Drought Level 2 of the district’s Drought Contingency Plan.

“In Drought Level 2, Public Law 100-71 requires that SWPA limit power production to rapid response, short term peaking purposes as determined by the power scheduling entity. Short term peaking generally means full power production of 4-8 hours per day on average, with more generation allowed during electrical emergencies. The Corps has coordinated with SWPA to reduce generation accordingly, with calendar year 2013 being the lowest generation year at Lake Texoma since hydropower operations began in 1945. Such a reduction in power production requires replacement power from more expensive energy sources to meet the region’s electricity needs. The Corps also notifies municipal and industrial water users to implement water conservation measures designed to lessen the impact of their withdrawals.”

If Drought Level 3 is reached there will be a number of actions emphasizing conservation to limit the impacts of the drought. Drought Level 3 begins at lake elevations of 607-599.9 feet.

Check back later this week for tips on helping Oklahoma through the drought and water crisis by conserving resources. And join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District (USACE)

Oklahoma City Residents Encouraged to Use Rain Barrels

Rain BarrelOklahoma City has had a lot of issues with water the last several years. Oklahoma has been in and out of a drought and water consumptions continues to rise. Last year, in an effort to reduce water consumption, the city permanently put odd/even outdoor watering into effect. Now they are encouraging residents to take it a step further and install rain barrels.

Lawn and garden watering makes up around 40% of all household water use during the summer. Using rain barrels to collect rainwater to use during periods of drought can help greatly reduce this number. Rain barrel water is ideal for gardens, lawns, and window washing. Rain barrel water is not safe for consumption unless treated.

The Oklahoma City Council recently passed an ordinance that allows up to two 85-gallon rain barrels in a resident’s front yard. Any number of rain barrels can be placed in side or back yards as long as not visible from the street. The rain barrels must be securely covered with opens covered with a screen to prevent infestations of insects.


Oklahoma City and the Central Oklahoma Storm Water Alliance (COSWA) are offering discounted rain barrels online. Prices start at $59 plus $2.50 online handling fee. The deadline to order is March 28, 2014. Residents can check out rain barrels at the Oklahoma City Home and Garden Show, January 17-19 at the COSWA both (#1645).

The city’s website offers instructions for residents to make their own rain barrels. Rain barrels can also be found at many home improvement and garden stores.

Let us know if you already have a rain barrel or are planning to get one. We’d love to hear from you! Comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: All rights reserved- Tiffany at Naturemoms.com

Salt Fork Fish Kill Still a Mystery

Fish KillState authorities have been investigating two fish kills that happened back in June, but the kills remain a mystery. The first kill took place near Lamont on June 3rd and the second near Tonkawa on June 17th. The kills are likely related and are being investigated as one event.

Fish kills are not uncommon in Oklahoma, especially in the summer. Most of the time the fish kills are caused by low levels of dissolved oxygen, but preliminary tests show plenty of dissolved oxygen in the river.

Droughts also often play a role in fish kills. No rain often cause rivers and lakes to become stagnate. These fish kills, however, happened after rainstorms.


Record-high salt was found in the river. The river is fed by the Great Salt Plains Reservoir, which is flanked by a great salt flat. One possibility is that the rainstorms washed the salt into the river. There is no record of this happening in the past but state agencies said it is possible.

Another source of saltwater in that part of the state is oil and natural gas drilling. However, the chemical composition of the salt contamination doesn’t match the brine from the nearby disposal well. Other disposal wells are being tested.

Residents with water wells nearby have reported problems with their water. It’s unclear if it’s related at this time.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo Credits:  Some rights reserved by OakleyOriginals

 

Concerns Over Norman Drinking Water

glass of waterMany Norman residents are concerned after finding out that Norman water has an average of 1.2 milligrams of aluminum per liter of water. The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends only .2 milligrams of aluminum in drinking water.

The aluminum is coming from Norman’s water treatment process. They use aluminum sulfate as a coagulant.  Norman has looked at alternate coagulants to use in place of or to supplement the aluminum sulfate but many of those come with their own set of issues. However, Norman does plan to investigate other options, such as ferric sulfate. The trial will start soon and they plan to test it for at least a year.

Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease in some studies, though health experts still disagree on if aluminum poses a health risk or not.


This is not the first water concern for Norman in the last several years. In December of 2010, a study found that Norman water had high levels of hexavalent chromium, the chemical that made Erin Brockovich famous. Hexavalent chromium is considered a human carcinogen. However, many groups disputed the study and said the amounts were safe and that the study caused unnecessary fear.

Are you concerned about the safety of Norman’s drinking water? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit-  Derek Jensen (Tysto), 2005-December-10

 

Nestle is Draining Millions of Gallons of Water from the Arkansas River

waterAs Colorado continues to deal with major drought conditions and massive wildfires, Nestle is draining millions of gallons of water from the Arkansas River out of a pipeline near Buena Vista, Colorado. Residents in the area aren’t happy, some estimates show 80 percent of people in Chaffee County are opposed to this. However in 2010, all three members of the Board of County Commissioners approved the plan. The water is taken from a pipeline and loaded into tanker trucks and taken to the Nestle bottling plant in Denver.

“…where the water will be used to fill hundreds and thousands and millions of little plastic Arrowhead Springs water bottles, which will then be trucked to convenience markets, grocery stores, movie theaters, and sports palaces around the West. Each month, Nestle will fill roughly 40.4 million 16.9 ounce bottles with the water from the area’s Nathrop spring. By the end of a year, 65 million gallons of Arkansas Valley water will have been driven to Denver, bottled, driven somewhere else, and sold.”- The Colorado Independent 

With 65 million gallons being pumped out of the river, you have to ask what the long term impacts will be to Colorado and even downstream. The Arkansas River also flows through Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. These areas have also suffered major droughts over the last couple of years and currently still have areas in drought conditions.


This is the perfect example for what is so wrong with our consumption of bottled water, when we have perfectly clean water from our taps. This issue was brought up by VICE in a recent article,

“….There is also Nestle, which sits at the cheaper end of the “all natural” bottled water market, and which is helping to illustrate the general insanity of bottled water quite well right now in Colorado. In this case, marketing equals an unceasing stream of semi-trucks driving between a series of wells and a bottling plant in Denver, about three hours away. One truck pulls up, fills, and drives on, to be immediately replaced by another empty truck, and so on. In the process, they are draining an aquifer that feeds the Arkansas River.” – read more

VICE goes on to talk about how Nestle is allowed to do this. They buy rights to water from Aurora, Colorado, the water they take from the Arkansas is replaced by Aurora’s water supply, not far upstream from Nestle’s wells.

“Owning land on the Arkansas River doesn’t give Nestle the right to take millions and millions of gallons out of it, even if that land is loaded with aquifers. But the company can buy millions and millions of gallons to put back into the river from Aurora, which, like most of the Denver area, gets its water from a big diversion project in the mountains that collects water that might otherwise head downstream along the Colorado River, and sends it to the city by aquaduct. Guess what feeds the Colorado River? The same exact thing that fills the Arkansas and its neighboring aquifers and your bottle of Arrowhead Springs: snowmelt from precipitation originating somewhere over the Pacific.”- read more

With bottled water you are paying for a plastic bottle, transportation, and marketing to get the same water you get from your tap. And with many cities rushing to find enough water, how can we afford to use it in such a wasteful way?

What are your thoughts on Nestle being allowed to take water from the Arkansas River in Colorado? Share in the comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page

Photo credit: Ivy Main

 

Ways to Conserve Water

The drought status has improved for much of the state but the current heat is a big reminder of what Oklahoma summers can be like. It’s time to start conserving water and we have some tips to get you started.

water

  • Use low flow aerators. This is a very easy and cheap way to save water. Doing this you can save you thousands of gallons of water each year.

  • Use low flow shower heads. You can find many styles anywhere you would find shower heads. You can save around twelve gallons of water per shower.

  • Place a full water bottle in your toilet tank to save water each time you flush.

  • If buying a new toilet look for ultra low flow toilets, or even better dual flush.

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and shaving. You will save around four gallons of water each time you brush.

  • If you hand-wash your dishes don’t just leave the water running, fill the sink to wash them.

  • Check for leaks in your toilet. Place a few drops of food coloring in the tank, leave it for a few hours, and if you see any in the bowl without flushing then you have a leak. Fixing toilet leaks can save around 200 gallons of water a day.

  • Only run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machines.

  • If buying a new washing machine look for a water saving high efficiency (HE) washer.

  • When planting this spring look for native plants that are used to our climate and require less water.

  • If possible skip watering your lawn. If not possible then water during cooler parts of the day to avoid evaporating.

  • Consider getting a rain barrel or two. Imagine all the rain water that could have been saved during the May storms? The rainwater you save during the rainy months can be saved and used during the drier summer months.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. We would love to hear your ideas as well, share in the comments below or join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit:  …love Maegan

 

The New Dust Bowl?

dustbowlOklahoma’s current drought is in it’s third year. With the severity and the length of the drought many are wondering if we could enter into another Dust Bowl. We have forgotten many of the lessons we learned during the last Dust Bowl and we are over farming again and also farming things in areas that aren’t really suited for those crops.

Much of what was at play before the Dust Bowl is at play again today. Crop prices are soaring and crop subsidies are also encouraging farmers to take too many risks with their land and water.

Modern irrigation has us feeling a bit like we can control nature. But much of the water used for irrigation comes from the Ogallala aquifer and the water levels in the aquifer are getting low and if it did run dry scientists say that it could take 6,000 years to refill. The Ogallala is also a big source of drinking water for the United States so this is a problem that is much better than just agriculture.


“[I]n less than 100 years we are seriously depleting what took Nature more than 10,000 years to fill,” said USGS director Marcia McNutt.

The signs are already starting, back in October 2012 there was a dust storm across Kansas and part of Oklahoma that could be seen from space. The dust storm caused many roads to have to be shut down. The dust seems to have come from southern Nebraska but Kansas and Oklahoma likely contributed.

There are also things that work in our favor. While we are over farming a lot of land again, farming practices are still improved. We have more erosion-control practices and we have drought-resistant crop hybrids. We also have a better understanding of tractors and better plowing methods.

There are so many factors at play it’s hard to say if a new Dust Bowl is in our future but there is one thing we know for sure, we are running out of water and we don’t really have a back up plan. We must act now if we want to have water security in the future and we don’t want to have another Dust Bowl.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit:  NOAA George E. Marsh Album