Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Local News

March 21, 2013

Water the real key to the future

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — One consultant says the ongoing drought experienced here and throughout much of the country clearly shows how easy it is for us to take water for granted.

That was part of the message from Duane Smith during a recent presentation to members of the Pauls Valley Kiwanis Club.

Smith could be considered an expert on water planning since he spent more than 30 years on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and now serves as a water consultant for the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes.

“Do you think the drought is over,” Smith said in the form of a general question. “Our seasonal outlook is for this drought to persist.

“I just want to make you think about water and how valuable it is to us and how should we plan for water,” he said.

“We do take water for granted.”

One reason for that is water itself is generally provided to the public cheaply and safely.

“Basically water is free,” he said. “What we’re paying for is the infrastructure.”

Yet another is a long wet period in Oklahoma before the current drought, now entering its third year, arrived forcing a lot of municipalities and other groups to scramble for answers.

“One reason we take water for granted is we’ve been in the wettest period in history before this drought,” Smith said, adding that period lasted about 30 years.

That’s the reason, he said, water planning is so important for dry times like now.

When a drought period does strike it impacts economic development and business. That’s when it’s mandatory that water usage is done efficiently.

“We don’t need to put money into health care, education, things like that if we don’t have water,” Smith said. “We have to keep the water infrastructure up if we’re going to have growth.

“Having other possible sources of water is proper planning. That allows for economic development in the future.”

Although Smith said not all the water planning has been on target for Pauls Valley, some has been a real plus, such as the construction of Longmire Lake, the increase in local water rates in recent years and today’s mandatory outdoor water restrictions and the effort to draw in water from the nearby Washita River.

Smith’s work today is now with the two area tribes in the development of a long-term plan for the 20-plus counties in the region, which includes Garvin County.

He says the tribes view water as something that must be sustainable for the future.

At the same time any planning must take into account and balance out the consumption needed now by citizens and municipalities.

“Water for future generations is what we mean by sustainable.”

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