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OKC Water History

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Oklahoma City has a long history of investing wisely in its water system. Our search for water began two months after the Land Run of 1889, and it hasn’t stopped.

The water supply system for the 10,000 new residents back then was one well and “bring your own bucket.” It wasn’t long before more wells were drilled. In 1908, the City purchased the water supply – 14 wells and some pipe. But the wells often went dry in the summer when life-sustaining water is most critical.

By 1910, City leaders began work on a water supply lake to ensure its 35,000 residents would always have water. Lake Overholser was completed in 1918 and is part of our water system today. Plans began immediately for a second water supply lake.

In the 1930s, the state suffered the worst droughts and floods in recorded history. At the same time, we were enjoying economic growth in oil exploration and production. Construction of Lake Hefner began but stopped during World War II for lack of materials and manpower.

The lake was completed in 1947, and the Hefner water treatment plant went into operation shortly thereafter. As Lake Hefner was being built, City leaders were already creating long-range plans for water supply.

In 1961, with a population of 324,000, the City undertook a $62 million project to bring water from 100 miles away. We bought land and built Lakes Atoka and Draper, a 100-mile pipeline, six pump stations, a water treatment plant and transmission lines to deliver tap water.

A water supply study completed in 2009 estimates central Oklahoma’s water needs will double to 316 million gallons a day by 2060.

In June 2010, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust contracted for water storage rights in Lake Sardis. The City has applied for a water use permit for water from Lake Sardis and the Kiamichi River. With that additional water supply from Lake Sardis, the city will be able to provide domestic water to about one-third of all Oklahomans for the next 60 years.