The Edmond Sun

November 3, 2012

Water conference looks at aging infrastructure

By Donald Stotts
Special to The Sun

TULSA — Tick-tock, tick-tock potentially could become more synonymous with Oklahoma water than the drip-drip-drip of well-managed, high-tech garden irrigation or the DRIP-DRIP-DRIP of some homeowner’s frustratingly leaky faucet.

Mike Langston, assistant director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute at Oklahoma State University, cautions that time is not on the side of the state’s water infrastructure, much of it built not long after World War II and given a life expectancy of 50 to 60 years.

“One of the most important taken-for-granted issues in water management is the pipes, dams, treatment plants and pumps that bring us clean drinking water and treat our sewage,” he said. “Many of our communities are at or near the end of much of their water infrastructure’s projected lifespan and officials must consider how to replace it.”

Estimates included in Oklahoma’s 2012 Water Plan indicated that more than $80 billion will be required to address this issue over the next 50 years.

“There are a number of financial considerations currently being discussed by government agencies, civic leaders and public and private organizations, with an eye toward ensuring the necessary security and sustainability to enable communities to make needed improvements,” Langston said.

Langston said community leaders have communicated that one of the more attractive components is being able to take advantage of low interest rates made possible by well-designed programs.

“The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has indicated that state municipalities have saved $900 million in interest over the years by using OWRB grant and loan programs,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is estimated that the current grant and loan programs will cover only 4 percent to 9 percent of the projected $80 billion price tag.”

Langston advises that community leaders and others may want to attend the upcoming Oklahoma water conference and research symposium in November.

“One of the sessions at the upcoming water conference will focus on OWRB plans to provide the financing for water infrastructure development,” he said. “It is a discussion that people should find invaluable, and definitely want to be a part of.”

The concurrent 33rd Annual Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference and 10th Annual Water Resources Research Symposium will take place Nov. 13-14 at the Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills.

Cost is $230 per participant if registering after Oct. 26. Students may attend for only $60. Although registration will be accepted at the door, online registration is available through Nov. 7 at https://www.owrb.ok.gov/apps/gwc/registration.aspx.

The concurrent conference and research symposium annually attracts hundreds of water officials, community leaders and private citizens who share an avid interest in Oklahoma’s water resources, and for good reason.

“Water touches many aspects of our lives every day; unfortunately, it can go largely unnoticed because water is abundant, inexpensive and reliable, but there are a few things on the horizon that may threaten those aspects,” Langston said. “Water is too important to all of us not to be informed.”

 

MORE information about the concurrent conference and symposium is available at http://www.owrb.ok.gov/news/waterconference.php#2012GWC.