However, one resource is running out. And once it does, the very future of our city is at risk.
Water is Oklahoma’s greatest resource. Without it, Oklahoma’s very way of life is threatened.
Few Oklahomans alive today can remember what life was like for the Okies during the Dirty ’30s. Our only frames of reference are books and historical accounts discussing dust storms so bad you couldn’t see a mile in front of you, let alone breathe, and farmers losing everything to the banks. We study The Grapes of Wrath in school, yet we see it as a different time with a historical distance that makes it almost seem like fiction.
However, global climate disruption is providing a firsthand lesson in what life could be like going forward if we don’t immediately take steps to fight back.
Over the past two years, farmers have lost more than $2 billion to our drought. Wildfires have ravaged our state. Interstate highways have been forced to close due to dust storms.
Our streams, rivers and lakes have dried up. Fish are dying, and blue-green algae is threatening Oklahomans’ ability to recreate. Lake Hefner and Lake Thunderbird, the two largest sources of water for Oklahoma City and Norman, are experiencing historic lows.
Instead of acting sensibly, Oklahoma City has chosen to use interbasin transfers to move water from rural parts of our state into the metroplex, devastating the aquatic life of these lakes as well as the tourist trade that helps their local economies survive.
This is like a person whose bills massively exceed their income draining their savings account to get by. Once the water is transferred from Canton Lake or Lake Sardis, it’s gone.
And what then? When will we institute the sensible measures that have been so successful for Texas cities like San Antonio and El Paso? San Antonio has managed to add more than 300,000 people to its city while utilizing the same amount of water.
Replacing older toilets with newer models alone saves 12,000 gallons of water per household annually. Toilets account for approximately 25 percent of the water usage for a typical home. This is an extremely easy thing for cities to incentivize.
Oklahoma City needs to institute meaningful water conservation programs in order to meet our demands as a growing, thriving city.
We cannot afford to do nothing and relive the Dirty ’30s.
Ocamb is state director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club.