theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

June 13, 2012

Ada backs science behind aquifer facts

Guy Sewell
The Ada News

Ada —  

As recently stated in The Ada News, we the people of Ada and Pontotoc County have been facing a “deluge” of information concerning the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (ASA) and Ada’s future water resources.  So let’s try to simplify things.  First since there are many points of view and many motivations for involvement in the issue, we should start with a disclaimer. Here is mine:

I don’t own property over, or water rights on, the ASA. I don’t consult for a fee on the topic of the ASA, my company or business does not use raw or treated water from the ASA to derive its profitability. I’m writing here as a concerned citizen. Because I’m very concerned about this issue, I serve on the Ada Water Resource Board and the Ada city council.

First I want to make a bold statement: Not only did the implementation of SB 288 and the associated maximum annual yield “save” the ASA, it also quite likely saved the city of Ada.  Surely that statement is an exaggeration? Let’s ignore the city’s groundwater rights for the moment and look at our most important water resource, Byrd’s Mill Spring (BMS).  The spring is entirely dependent on the ASA for its flow. Entirely.  If the water-rich, northeastern portion of the ASA is mined for groundwater, the spring will be impacted. If enough is pumped out, the spring will go dry.  The city of Ada can buy additional groundwater rights, but we can’t replace BMS.  In that light, the maximum annual yield (MAY) determination and the associated equal proportionate share (EPS) suddenly look like a very good thing for the people of Ada.

The city of Ada, our past Mayor, and CPASA, did not set the MAY.  The Oklahoma Water Resource Board, with information from the most expensive and detailed aquifer study ever conducted in the State, set the MAY. This is not a “self - inflicted” shortage, it is the best scientific estimate of the actual available water in the ASA.  It is also the best scientific estimate of any available groundwater resource that has ever been done in the history of the state of Oklahoma. The previous EPS in the temporary permits was a hydrologic fantasy created by lawyers.  So while the newly determined MAY decreases the volumetric value of the city’s current groundwater rights, it protects the city’s most valuable and irreplaceable water resource, Byrd’s Mill Spring. I personally want to “congratulate” all the citizens, scientists and state workers involved in the ASA studies, for a job well done.

So what’s going to happen now?  The city will acquire additional water resources, as needed.  Not through eminent domain (something that I have NEVER heard discussed and which makes no economic sense), but through a free market approach.  The city will upgrade and repair its water infrastructure (in progress) and will respond accordingly to whatever phase-in period the OWRB decides to implement.  Will water rates increase? Perhaps, but I expect at rates no more than those of any other municipality in Oklahoma.

So why is there so much conflicting information? Well, I suggest you first ask for the disclaimer.

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Guy Sewell is Ada's newest city councilman.