ADA — Most of us take it for granted.
When we’re thirsty, it’s at the ready with a simple twist of the tap.
We bathe in it. Wash our vehicles and clothing in it. Fight fires with it. Use it to produce electricity. We use it in our operating rooms, factories and restaurants. Yes, water is the cheapest, yet most valuable natural resource we have, and the fight over use of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer continues.
In the latest episode, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is preparing to make a decision that will directly affect Ada and other communities who rely on the aquifer, according to Dick Scalf, an Ada environmental engineer, member of the Ada Water Resources Board and past president of Citizens to Protect the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.
A nine-day series of hearings, the longest and one of the most controversial in the water board’s history concluded March 30.
Meridian Aggregates, a Martin Marietta subsidiary, is seeking a groundwater permit to use water from the aquifer to wash stone mined from a quarry. Company officials said the stone then will be crushed into gravel and used primarily for road construction projects in Oklahoma and Texas.
The groundwater permit is for 1,400 acre feet of water, or about 365,000 gallons.
CPASA, a group dedicated to protecting the aquifer’s water, and at least six cities, including Ada, oppose the groundwater permit and mining operations, claiming these activities could pollute or damage the water, according to Floy Parkhill, president of the organization.
Pete Dawson, vice president and general manager of North Texas/Oklahoma District of Martin Marietta Materials, based in Lewisville, Texas, said his company is doing everything possible to ensure no damage is done to the aquifer from its mining operations.
Dawson said Martin Marietta had reached an agreement with the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to install continuous monitoring devices at six wells that surround the property and locate stream gauging stations at Mill Creek and Pennington Creek to ensure adequate flow comes from the aquifer and that it replenishes the streams.
Dawson said the company also agreed to conduct water chemistry tests with the two federal agencies and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to gather data on the aquifer’s status. He said the company also agreed to use aquifer water as a supplemental source only if their three primary sources — rainfall, surface runoff water and water that gathers in the pit — are inadequate.
The Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer is the primary source of water for Blue River, Pennington Creek and Byrd's Mill Spring. Those streams provide water to Ada, Durant and Tishomingo. In addition, the aquifer provides source water to several tourist attractions and camps in south- central Oklahoma.
Scalf said the protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer is critical for the future of southern Oklahoma and the entire state.
Water is a key component of any effort to recruit new businesses and industries, said state Rep. Bob Plunk, D-Ada.
The Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer sits beneath approximately 500 square miles, mostly in Pontotoc, Johnston and Murray counties.
Meanwhile, the legal status of a bill that prevents the sale of water from the aquifer remains up in the air. Oklahoma City-based PESA LLC wants to construct an 88-mile, $200 million pipeline from the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer to central Oklahoma. The operation would pump as much as 20 million gallons of water daily from the aquifer to a group of communities that currently receive water from Oklahoma City. El Reno, Yukon, Piedmont and Mustang are member communities that would own the pipeline and water rights.
Landowners whose property sits atop the aquifer claim they have a legal right to sell their water. But opponents say the very survival of communities depend on a sufficient water supply from the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer. A comprehensive study, they say, will determine if huge amounts of water can be pumped out without damaging the water source.
Senate Bill 288, passed in 2003, placed a moratorium on the water sale until a comprehensive study is performed. Meanwhile, representatives of the landowners have appealed the constitutionality of the bill to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The court has not ruled on the matter.
“The Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of Senate Bill 288 is a very big deal to Ada and other areas that depend on the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer,” Scalf said. “Two lower courts have approved the bill. Now it’s up to the Supreme Court.”
Oklahomans use almost 2 billion gallons of water daily, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Meanwhile, the nine-member Water Resources Board is expected to decide whether to grant the groundwater permit to Meridian Aggregates in June.
ADA — Most of us take it for granted.