In the face of a continuing drought, the Oklahoma Water Survey is holding three educational outreach forums on how to better reuse and conserve water within the next few months.
The first of the forums, held on April 23, focused on different techniques for water reuse, according to the event’s agenda. The next forum will take place on May 14 and will focus on water treatment options and examine different case studies, said Robert Puls, the director of the Oklahoma Water Survey and an OU associate professor in the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences.
The final forum, on June 18, will focus specifically on the plans Norman has for conserving and reusing water, Puls said.
The City of Norman has created a plan that involves drilling new wells, reusing wastewater and adding additional treatment to all the wells, Puls said.
There are more advanced techniques for making wastewater safe to drink that are not currently being used at Norman’s water treatment facility, Puls said. But that could change soon.
“Norman is one of the few cities in the state right now that’s actively considering a potable reuse plan,” Puls said.
A large portion of the western United States is suffering from drought. The map on the University of Nebraska’s drought monitor website depicts the western states as a mosaic with shades of yellow, orange and red, indicating conditions ranging from moderately dry to extreme drought. Patches of Oklahoma, Texas and California are listed as having “exceptional drought,” according to the map.
These drought conditions led the state of California to announce mandatory restrictions on water use in the beginning of April.
One of the speakers at the first forum was Julie Cunningham, the chief of the planning and management division of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
In some parts of southwest Oklahoma, the drought is as severe as the one in California, Cunningham said.
Conditions were worse two years ago, but currently everything west of Interstate 35 is in drought, Puls said.
The Oklahoma legislature passed the Water for 2060 Act in 2012, with the goal of using no more fresh water in 2060 than they were using at the time, Cunningham said.
One of the ways this goal can be achieved is to introduce new water reuse techniques.
Because these techniques can require significant investments, the public needs to be educated about the techniques so they can understand what the money is being used for, Puls said.
The forums are designed to build upon one another, and most people who registered to come to the events signed up for two or all three, Puls said.
People can still register for the future forums at oklahomawatersurvey.org, Puls said.