theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

December 10, 2011

Future water needs of Ada concern expert


The Ada News

Ada —  

Editor, The Ada News:

Water is essential for the sustainability and growth of any city.  Accordingly, most water planners and city leaders are constantly working to maximize existing water resources and seek new supplies.  Simply enough they look for more water and ways to reduce the cost of that water.  That’s why the city council’s vote on December 5, 2011 to support CPASA’s proposed implementation of Senate Bill 288 thoroughly baffles me.

Let’s start with the basics.  This proposed implementation reduces Ada’s ground water rights by 80 percent. While it is likely that Ada’s water rights would have been reduced in almost any implementation scenario, why would city leaders support a reduction in water rights to this level when the state might have given Ada more if they simply awaited the decision? If Ada was going to lobby for anything, wouldn’t it have made sense to lobby for a larger amount of water and then negotiate down, if necessary? Why give up so much without a fight?  I can understand why the other supporters of this implementation plan (Ardmore, Durant, Tishomingo, etc) were excited, they use surface water and this implementation plan affects ground water only.  I suspect the rest of the cities are quietly thankful that Ada conceded its water rights so that the water could freely flow downstream in their direction.  

Even more baffling to me is Ada would support an implementation that requires a mitigation plan.  It is one thing to support conservation, monitoring and planning mandates in the proposed plan, however, it is quite another to mandate that Ada somehow mitigate its water withdrawals, perhaps by putting water back into the aquifer.  Again, this is something that Ada could have had the option to do, but by supporting this implementation plan, they are now saying that they think mitigation plans should be required.  Worse yet, the proposed implementation plan doesn’t ask for funding to help pay for these additional requirements. Why give up so much before the negotiating even starts? On the surface, it at least appears as though Ada made a shrewd move by advocating for a gradual reduction of water rights over a 20-year period.  The thinking is that a longer time frame gives Ada more time to negotiate and acquire additional water to make up for the water rights conceded. My thinking is that it gives Ada a false sense of security while other users of water materialize and acquire more and more of the available water rights. Think about it this way, if this implementation plan is adopted then, over a period of time, water rights will be reduced from 2 acre-feet to 0.2 acre-feet.  That means that everyone in the area just lost 90 percent of their water supplies.  That means increased competition for the remaining 10 percent. In the meantime, mining operations are expanding and an Exxon subsidiary, XTO, has moved in on the southwest flank of the aquifer and started drilling gas wells in the Woodford Shale.  The rumor is that they will drill thousands of wells that each require millions of gallons of water to hydraulically fracture. The mines keep expanding and likely will do so as long as the material holds out and the trains keep running to Dallas. Time may prove me wrong, but I think the drastic reduction in water rights along with the growth and addition of major water users in the area will do nothing but increase the demand for and price of water.  

I just don’t understand why Ada would have supported something where it gave up so much while competing communities benefited greatly. Again, the only community that this proposed plan negatively impacts is Ada because the rest of the communities don’t use ground water.  Why wouldn’t the other cities support something that limits Ada’s water supplies and has no negative impact on their own?  

The one thing I know is that there is no more free water.  Any water Ada gets from here on will cost more than it ever has in the past.  With each passing day, the price keeps going up, just like everything else we buy. It just leaves me to wonder how long the City of Ada will voluntarily relinquish water rights before it gets serious about leasing or buying replacement water rights.  How close to the edge will Ada get before reality sinks in?   

 

Kelly Hurt, Ph.D.

Marketing Agent for Arbuckle Simpson Landowners Group

Immediate Past Chairman of Ada Water Resources Board

Former Board Member of CPASA