Water — a necessity of life that Ernie Currier thinks Enid won’t have enough of in the future. He told Enid Rotary Club it is just one reason why he plans to vote for the Kaw Lake pipeline project on Aug. 23.
On Aug. 23, voters will consider a new three-quarter percent sales tax, and the extension of an existing one-quarter percent sales tax, to fund a project to include the pipeline to Kaw Lake, pump stations, storage areas, a water treatment plant and intake structures. The estimated cost is around $360 million.
“Forty-five percent of sales tax in Enid is collected from outside of Enid, and that’s why we’re using sales tax,” said Currier, campaign chairman and former city commissioner and mayor.
Currier said the median household income in Enid is $44,266. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated the average resident spends 18 percent of his or her taxable income on goods, Currier said. Based on Enid’s median household income, $7,967.88 is spent on taxable goods, he said. Multiply that by .0075 and the median household will pay $59.76 annually for the pipeline, he said.
“The penny sales tax will still be designated for infrastructure and still be in place,” he said. “By using a sales tax, we keep water rates down. If we paid through water rates, the cost would be left for strictly only Enid residents and it would be astronomical.”
If approved, the city’s sales tax would increase to 9.1 percent from 8.35 percent.
Currier, who lives outside Enid limits and will be unable to vote for the pipeline on Aug. 23, said he would be willing to pay the tax.
“I believe we need to be taking less out of our water fields so they can replenish,” Currier said. “We need to diversify supply.”
Currier said if the city drilled more than the existing five wells, it would be the equivalent of adding another straw to one glass of water.
“It would help in the short-term but not in the long-term because we would just be sucking water out faster,” Currier said. “Enid is solely dependent on underground aquifers, a pool of water. Aquifers are dependent on rainfall and replenishing from above.”
Drought and increased usage has impacted the aquifer Enid uses for water. In 2000, water was 23.7 feet down from the top of one of Enid's wells. In 2015, the distance was 40.7 feet, Currier said.
“We need to find an additional resource,” he said. “It will reach the point of critical where we no longer can get water from the field. ... the aquifers are not recharging because we’re taking it out faster than it can recharge.”
On the other hand, Currier said, Kaw Lake's water level has dropped below 100 percent of capacity just once in more than 10 years.
“A watershed runs into the lake and so does the Arkansas River,” Currier said. “It’s a very viable source of water.”