NORMAN — Thursday President Barack Obama signed the Lake Thunderbird Efficient Use Act of 2012 into law. The bill will allow the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District to purchase outside water to augment Lake Thunderbird during drought conditions. The bill was authored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and carried in the senate by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa.
The bill will allow COMCD to negotiate with Oklahoma City to tap into the Atoka line and purchase raw water to augment the lake. Despite receiving an inch and a half of rain this week, lake levels are still low and continued drought is anticipated.
COMCD has imposed a 10 percent reduction of Norman’s water allocation. The city gets approximately 66 percent of its water supply from Lake Thunderbird. Additional water comes from 36 operational wells.
That reduction in allocation will remain in place, at least until COMCD can negotiate a deal with Oklahoma City or some other outside source. COMCD manages the lake as a long term water supply source for the cities of Norman, Midwest City and Del City. Each of the cities has been asked to reduce its allocation by 10 percent, but Norman is the most reliant on Lake Thunderbird.
In the wake of the allocation reduction, Norman is instituting mandatory “Stage 2 Moderate Conservation” effective Monday.
According to the Drought Impact Center, almost 95 percent of Oklahoma is in the Extreme, Category D3 or Exceptional, Category D4 drought conditions.
The city reports that Norman is currently categorized as having Extreme Drought conditions. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center expects the current drought to continue or worsen through the Spring of 2013 with a possibility that drought could extend long term.
As of Friday, the lake was 7-and-a -half feet below the conservation pool or 62 percent full. By February, lake levels could meet and exceed the historical record low level set in 2006.
“Due to Lake Thunderbird’s declining supply, the city believes it is appropriate to institute this action now,” said City Manager Steve Lewis. “It appears our present situation is resembling the drought of the 1950’s.”
Only three percent of tap water is used for drinking on a typical day, the city reports, but all of the water is treated to the same high quality of drinking standards. The recent adoption of a gray water ordinance by the Norman City Council will allow builders to direct water from washing machines and bathtubs into landscaping irrigation systems. Residents who want to adapt current plumbing to allow for gray water irrigation also may do so.
“We encourage our customers to adopt water-wise practices to conserve water,” Lewis said.
Residents can reduce water waste by using water efficient toilets, shower heads and other fixtures. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “A typical household uses approximately 260 gallons of water every day. We can reduce this amount and save money by using water more efficiently — detecting and fixing leaky faucets, installing high efficiency clothes washers and toilets, and watering the lawn and garden with the minimum amount of water needed.”
While simply turning off the water while brushing teeth saves as much as 3,000 gallons per year according to the EPA, preventing water waste through changing out inefficient fixtures can result in huge savings.
“Toilets are by far the main source of water use in the home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of residential indoor water consumption. Toilets also happen to be a major source of wasted water due to leaks and inefficiency,” according to the EPA. “Switching to high-efficiency toilets can save a family of four, on average, $2,000 in water bills over the lifetime of the toilets.”
Toilets manufactured before 1992 are the worst offenders.
Faucets account for more than 15 percent of indoor household water use. WaterSense labeled bathroom sink faucets and accessories can reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent or more without sacrificing performance according to EPA estimates, but people who can’t afford to replace faucets, can replace the aerator in older faucets with a more efficient one.
The aerator screws onto the tip of the faucet, determining the maximum flow rate. Aerators are inexpensive.
The EPA reports that showering accounts for about 17 percent of residential indoor water use. High-efficiency shower fixtures cost $10 to $20 can save 25-60 percent. Older models before 1992 are the worst offenders.
Currently, the city of Norman has a low-cost kit of water efficient fixtures available at the Utilities billing office for $6. The kit contains a aerators for kitchen and bathroom sinks, a shower head, and a toilet water displacer.