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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.

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Photo Credit:  NOAA George E. Marsh Album


Rain and Snow Helps Drought Conditions Around the State


It has been awhile since Oklahoma has heard good news, as far as our drought is concerned but today there is good news. After all of the snow and rainfall the state received so far this year, we are finally seeing improvements in drought conditions.

Just a month ago 100% of the state was in a severe drought or worse, 92.14% of the state was in an extreme drought or worse, with 39.58% in an exceptional drought. Today, 100% is still in a severe drought or worse, but the rest of the numbers have seen a lot of improvement! Now just 61.65% of the state is still in an extreme drought or worse and only 11.80% is in an exceptional drought.

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.

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.

While the state is still in a water crisis and the situation must still be taken very seriously, we have seen improvement in water levels in many lakes across the state. Some lakes are even back to normal levels. Though some, like Altus-Legert are still dangerously low, it currently is 27 feet below normal. We have a long way to go to get out of the drought but the past two months have shown some promise.

The snow has also been helpful, though one foot of snow only equals one inch of rain. Preliminary snowfall totals for the month of February are 42.5 inches in the town of Arnett. That would break the previous single-month snowfall amount in a single location in Oklahoma record, which was 39.5 inches from Buffalo in February, 1971.

The statewide average rainfall is up to 2.99 inches, which would be the 12th wettest on record. The 8-14 day forecast also shows above normal rainfall, which would farther help the state. The rain is coming just in time for many farmers that are getting ready to plant and will be very helpful for the state.

Current outlook for March is pretty good, showing normal rainfall with above normal temperatures. The April-June forecast however is not as promising as it is predicting below normal rainfall for much of the state. Above normal temperatures are also predicted. Looks like we will need all of the rain we can get before this summer as it could be another hot and dry one.

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Dire Water Situation in Norman

thunderbirdAs the drought in Oklahoma lingers the water crisis continues to deteriorate. Residents in Norman, Midwest City, and Del City rely on Lake Thunderbird for their drinking water, but the lake nearly 8 feet below normal.

Last month, President Obama signed a bill to strengthen Lake Thunderbird’s water supply. The bill would allow the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District (COMCD), which manages Thunderbird, to purchase water from Oklahoma City’s Atoka Reservoir. This bill however comes too late. The COMCD has learned their is no water currently available for purchase.

In January, COMCD asked it’s water customers- Norman, Midwest City, and Del City- to reduce allotments by 10 percent. Norman issued a mandatory water conservation, but cool winter months aren’t high-use times. The coming summer months are of high concern for city officials.

“There’s no question that the most important near-term strategy we as a community need to embrace is stricter conservation,” Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. “We will be looking at all possible means of communicating the importance of conservation to our customers.”- The Norman Transcript

One solution Norman is looking into is using reclaimed water from the wastewater treatment plant. The water wouldn’t be used for drinking but would be used for watering and such. Norman already uses reclaimed water for washing weirs, foam suppression, and lubricating pump seals at the sewer treatment plant.

Lake Thunderbird

Lake Thunderbird, Photo Courtesy of Cleveland County Conservation District

Norman may also get help from Del City. If Norman City Council approves a proposed five-year contract for up to 300 million gallons of water annually of Del City’s Lake Thunderbird allotment. A draft of the proposal was coming before the council tonight in a non-voting session.

With the drought likely to continue, cities like Norman will have to look at many options for conserving what they have and finding more water as Lake Thunderbird’s water level continues to drop.

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Photo Credit: Lake Thunderbird sign- intenteffect
Lake Thunderbird- Cleveland County Conservation District


The Drought Continues, No End in Sight

Last month the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared all but one county in Oklahoma a disaster area. And the water situation continues to deteriorate. May-January the state averaged 15.4 inches of rain, which makes it the third driest such period on record. The two that rank above are similar periods in 1910-11 (14.5 inches) and 1952-1953 (15.2 inches).

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.

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.

We did end January on a high note with 1-3 inches of rain across parts of the state. This did push our precipitation totals for the month to 0.2 inches above normal, making it the first month since April 2012 to finish with above normal precipitation. However, parts of the western Oklahoma weren’t so fortunate and still finished well below normal.

We ended the month with 100 percent of the state in a severe (D2) drought, and 92 percent of that in the extreme (D3) category, and 37 percent of that in the exceptional (D4) category. Many of eastern Oklahoma’s reservoirs saw some gains.

“Broken Bow Lake in McCurtain County rose to 77 percent of capacity, a nine percent rise in about a month’s time. Hugo Lake in Choctaw County rose from 37 percent to 61 percent. The lakes farther to the west still remain near those historic lows, however. The reservoir at Altus-Lugert remained at 16 percent of capacity, and nearby Tom Steed Lake hovered at 35 percent. Oklahoma City and Norman have both implemented mandatory water conservation guidelines to their water customers due to low lake levels.”- Mesonet

The outlook for Oklahoma’s rainy season, April-June, is not looking good. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is predicting above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for that time period. The drought looks to likely persist and possibly intensify from February- April, and with the outlook for the rainy season the longer term outlook isn’t good either. There is some good news for the short term, the CPC is predicting above normal rainfall from February 8th-14th.

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Oil-Spills into Lake Keystone

About 4,800 gallons of crude oil spilled into Lake Keystone after a tanker truck overturned on a rocky embankment Saturday morning. The tanker was driving over the Keystone Lake land bridge, U.S. Highway 412. The tanker was clipped by a car that was driving with a flat tire.

Clean up has continued today. However, the winds today have made clean up more difficult. And the oil has been spreading into Bear’s Glen Cove, though most of the oil has been contained in floating barriers.

The oil sheen is estimated to be about 15 by 1,000 feet. Both the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the state Department of Environmental Quality are both monitoring the situation. Workers will be monitoring the spill for a couple of weeks. So far there have been no reports of fish kills.

Thankfully, no public drinking water is taken from the lake. And clean up experts said they don’t expect the spill to have much of an impact on the wildlife. And the spill shouldn’t pose any risks to any people. The Keystone Dam’s power generation hasn’t been hinder either.

The video below from NewsOn6.com shows the spill on Saturday.
NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |



8 Easy Ways to Conserve Water


The drought is continuing and it shows no signs of ending soon. We are finishing the driest May-Decemeber on record, January looks to not be record breaking but very close. The precipitation for the rest of the month doesn’t look good, February doesn’t look good either. With communities racing to find water as lakes and other water sources dry up, we must all do our part to help conserve the water we have. Conservation doesn’t have to be a lot of work or sacrifice and if we all do our part we can help reduce the strain on our water supplies.

  1. Turn off the water when getting ready. Instead of running the water while shaving, fill the sink a little bit, and turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
  2. Only run full loads in your dishwasher and washing machine.
  3. Check for leaks in your toilet. Place a few drops of food coloring in the tank and if you see any in the bowl without flushing then you have a leak.
  4. When replacing appliances like a dishwasher or washing machine, look for the ones that use the least amount of water.
  5. If you have water left in a glass or from boiling something like pasta or vegetables, use the cool water to water plants.
  6. If at all possible, don’t water your lawn. We all love green lawns but with this water crisis it’s not worth the cost. If you really must water, do it as little as possible and make sure if your city as water restrictions that you follow them.
  7. Take showers instead of baths and keep the showers as short as possible. If buying a new shower head, opt for a lower flow one that will help save even more water.
  8. Put low flow aerators on your faucets. These are cheap and easy to install. They can save thousands of gallons of water each year.

These are just a few easy tips to help us all conserve water while we deal with this terrible drought and water crisis. If you have more tips please share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit- Maegan Tintari



Oklahoma’s Water Crisis

oklahomadroughtEven with the rain and snow this month, the whole state is in a severe to exceptional drought, most of it under extreme to exceptional. Between January 9th, 2012 and January 7th, 2013, Oklahoma got 25.37″ of rain, that’s -11.27″ below normal, making it the 7th driest year since 1921.

The drought is putting a real strain on Oklahoma’s water supply. Oklahoma City is looking to have to take water from Lake Canton as Lake Hefner, a major source of water for the city, is the lake’s level is at an all-time low.

Taking water from Lake Canton is a very heated issue, largely because it is 9 feet lower than normal and there are major concerns about taking more water from it.  One fear is that if the lake levels fall more that a “fish kill” could happen.

The drought monitor is showing that Oklahoma’s wettest months, March, April, May, and June are going to be less wet than normal, so it looks like the drought won’t be ending anytime soon. With this news cities are even more worried about the water situation. Many cities have issued mandatory water restrictions in an effort to help the situation. Oklahoma City believes their restrictions will be in place through the end of the summer.

Oklahoma City isn’t the only city in trouble, Payne County Commissioners have declared an emergency for their water supply needs. One community in Payne County’s water supply could dry up in less than two months. They get their water from Lone Chimney Lake and it’s now 11 feet below normal, its lowest level ever. Currently the cold temperatures are helping prevent a “fish kill” but if one does happen the water would be untreatable.

A pipeline is being built from Stillwater’s water treatment plant to Lone Chimney’s plant but that could take another five or six months. If things don’t get better soon, water may have to be trucked in to residents. Farmers are struggling to give water to livestock as many ponds are also dry, adding to the issues facing the area.

Things are looking to get worse before they get better. And as the drought continues, more Oklahoman’s may face water shortages.

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

Photo Credits: Al Jazeera English



Summary of the Formal Hearing for the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer

Arbuckle-Simpson The Formal Hearing for the Tentative Determination of Maximum Annual Yield for the Arbuckle-Simpson Groundwater Basin (TMAY Hearing) was held at the Murray County Expo Center on May 15th and 16th. CPASA joined a number of other parties supporting the TMAY Determination approved by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), including the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of Ada, the City of Durant, the City of Sulphur, the City of Tishomingo, the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club, and approximately 300 local citizens.

Appearing in opposition to the TMAY Determination was the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Legal Foundation, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Pontotoc County Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, Oklahoma Aggregates Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, TXI, U.S. Silica, Environmental Federation of Oklahoma, Inc., and Arbuckle-Simpson Environmental Federation of Oklahoma, Inc. (herein “Corporate Interests”). Other opposition included the Arbuckle-Simpson Landowners Group and a number of individuals.

The Corporate Interests hired three experts to attack the OWRB’s TMAY Determination, although only two experts actually testified, in an effort to unravel Senate Bill 288 and to call into question the six-year, multi-million dollar, peer-reviewed scientific study conducted by the OWRB, U.S. Geologic Survey, and others. CPASA and other supporters vigorously defended the scientific study, which is the most comprehensive and detailed investigation of any groundwater basin in the State of Oklahoma.

Others in opposition to the TMAY Determination argued it was a wrongful taking of private property. However, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma has long held the OWRB’s regulation of groundwater is constitutional and thus not a takings of private property rights. CPASA’s position on the issue remains the same—the TMAY Determination protects private property rights. Without a final maximum annual yield (MAY) determination, the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer’s groundwater is in danger of being drained by over-pumping. Thus, CPASA believes that the TMAY Determination—and, ultimately, the final MAY determination—protects private property rights by ensuring property owners always have groundwater beneath their land.

The administrative record will remain open until May 31st. Accordingly, if you were unable to attend the TMAY Hearing, you may still submit comments to the OWRB until 5:00 pm, May 31, 2012. After the record closes, the Hearing Examiner will review the information presented and submit a formal recommendation to the OWRB on whether the TMAY Determination should be approved. After the recommendation is made, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board shall then make a final determination on the maximum annual yield for the Arbuckle-Simpson Groundwater Basin.

This info and photo was provided to us by Citizens For The Protection Of The Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer (CPASA). Please contact CPASA for more info.

The United State of Oklahoma to Air on Local TV Stations

An educational, in-depth look at the unique history of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations and the events shaping our water future.


Check your local listings for times and dates.

World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day. While right now Oklahoma has been getting a lot of rain, everyone can remember this summer and the terrible drought. With climate change and rising temperatures, droughts will become more common and our need for water will rise. We must start conserving water now.

We would love to hear some of your tips for saving water, share below or on our Facebook page.