Weatherford looking at water sources
Weatherford Mayor Mike Brown acknowledged Thursday that his city is totally dependent on the Rush Springs Aquifer for water and if worse comes to worst, it could be looking to Clinton for help.
Not that it’s anywhere near that now.
“We’re concerned like everybody else,” Brown said when asked if his council has talked to any of the Fay people who are worried about all the water the half dozen sand mining companies that are putting in operations around their community will be using. “What they (the Fay people) tell us, it sounds like a heck of a lot of water.
“We’ve talked to ’em. I visited with a couple of people from up there, and I think they’re looking for allies if there’s a fight. I don’t think they’re trying to shut anything down; they’re just trying to make sure things are done responsibly. They are worried about the future.”
Besides Weatherford, other public bodies that people from Fay have contacted include the Custer County Commissioners and Clinton City Council.
As for his city, Brown said, “We’re trying to stay in touch and be informed. We haven’t done anything actively to shut anything down. Hopefully it’s not going to affect that Rush Springs Aquifer.”
The Fay people say it will. One of them, Arianna Parkinson, told county commissioners on Jan. 7 that a U.S. Geological Survey study showed that if the Oklahoma Water Resources Board doesn’t cut the amount of water it’s allowing the mining companies to take by more than half, the Rush Springs Aquifer will be virtually gone in 20 years.
Asked if Weatherford had any problems during the big drought of 2011-15, Brown said no.
“We’ve been fortunate up to now in having plenty of water,” he said. “We’ve never had to ration it; we’ve always had plenty. Our water folks check it on a regular basis to see where the water table is. Up to this point we haven’t seen anything significant, but that may change with the amount of water the sand mines are going to be using.”
Starting in June, Brown said his city plans to develop a 10-year plan. He doesn’t think they’ll do anything to develop their own supply of surface water, but he acknowledged they could look elsewhere to buy more water.
“Maybe look at ya’ll (Clinton) and to the east,” he said. “We need it.”
Clinton of course was hit hard by the 2011-15 drought and with its neighbors in the Foss Master Conservancy District, wound up using virtually all the excess water that agency could produce. Spurred by the shortage, Clinton residents voted for a $29.45-million bond issue that won’t be paid off until 2044.
Along with other things, the bonds paid for the drilling of three new wells, including two at the Riverside Golf Course which are tapping the Rush Springs Aquifer and the Washita Alluvium. Clinton leaders the Daily News spoke with earlier this month weren’t sure what percent of the new water would come from each of those sources.
The bond issue also is paying for a new water treatment plant that has been built at the west edge of town but is not yet on line. Updating of the huge Foss Reservoir treatment plant in which Clinton is the major participant continues to be under study as well.
Without mentioning names, Clinton officials have said in the past that when this city’s water improvements are completed, they can see it becoming a seller of water.
Brown said the City of Weatherford has about 40 wells in his town, all tapping the Rush Springs Aquifer.
The aquifer runs at a northwest-to-southeast angle across large portions of Custer, Caddo, Washita and Grady counties. Taloga is at the northwest tip and Marlow at the southeast.
“We’ve always been in pretty good shape,” Mayor Brown said, “but that could all change.”
Asked how much water his town uses, he said it varies by season, like most cities.
“This time of year, we’re using a couple of million gallons a day,” he said. “During the summer it might be 6 million. We’ve got a capability of pumping 8 or 9 million gallons a day, so we’ve still got a little room on the top side. We probably average pumping 3 or 4 million a day.”
With no major manufacturing or food production facilities, Brown could not think of any single user in Weatherford that consumes a lot of water. “We don’t have a Bar-S (like Clinton),” he said. Southwestern Oklahoma State University was the only single large water user he could think of in his town.
Even though the city has had a lot of development the last couple of decades, none of the new businesses have been big water users.
“Nobody has a need for a large water supply,” he said. “If they do, I can’t think of who it would be.”
Asked if any of the sand mining companies have contacted Weatherford officials, as one did Custer County commissioners, he said no.
“Not about water,” he added. “We’ve talked to some about housing and jobs, but not about water. We’ve had several people move here that are working up there.”