Our state is experiencing a drought that once again demonstrates how vital water is to the lives of Oklahomans. Ordinarily, Oklahoma is fortunate to have abundant water resources to meet the needs of cities, employers, rural areas, farmers, ranchers and recreational enthusiasts. How those resources are responsibly managed in good times and bad will determine the future of the state.
The State of Oklahoma through its Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) has the sole authority to manage the state’s waters for the benefit of all the people of Oklahoma. But the state’s water rights are in dispute. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian tribes have made claims to water rights held by Oklahoma City and other water permit holders in Southeast Oklahoma. They sued the OWRB, the Governor and Oklahoma City in August of 2011 to take the rights to water in 22 counties. After a year of mediation, the tribes, the state and Oklahoma City and its Water Utilities Trust are now engaged in direct talks in the hopes of settling the dispute without a lengthy legal battle.
The situation is further complicated by another legal case involving a water district in Tarrant County Texas. The Tarrant Regional Water District near Dallas/Fort Worth is seeking water in Southeast Oklahoma. The Texas based water district sued the Oklahoma Water Resources Board saying Tarrant County has a right to some of Oklahoma’s water. The Tarrant Water District has taken its case the United State’s Supreme Court who will likely render a decision on the dispute this year.
For more than 100 years, Oklahoma City has been reliably managing water not just for the City, but also for many communities in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City has an obligation to protect the rights of water users within its system. At the same time, the City acknowledges that the tribes do have certain water rights. The City’s Water Utilities Trust has worked to legally procure water, store water and then deliver it to communities that use it for residential tap water, as well as for businesses that need water to create and maintain jobs. The Water Utilities Trust has also demonstrated its commitment to managing these essential water resources while respecting their natural beauty, fish, wildlife and the environment. The City has also taken steps to effectively manage water resources in this time of drought.
This section of the City’s website provides information about this dispute and the efforts to reach a fair and equitable resolution. It will be updated as the case proceeds. It is the goal of this website to offer a fair, honest and balanced view of this important issue.