A Water Partnership

Posted by on Apr 8, 2020 in Top Stories

Fast-growing communities can face many challenges. One such challenge is having the necessary infrastructure–such as roads, bridges, electrical lines, and pipes–to keep up with the growth and provide new residents with the services they need. Southwest Missouri is one region currently facing these issues. For them, the primary concern is water–in other words, having enough of it to meet a growing need. But what if another state were to sell its excess water to Missouri? In fact, just such a discussion is already in the works. Here, btw takes a look at this unusual potential relationship.

A Unique Proposal

The Tri-State Water Resource Coalition is a nonprofit group dedicated to providing secure and affordable water resources for Southwest Missouri as it continues to grow. Right now, the area includes more than 800,000 residents–many of whom rely on groundwater and wells. Resources are adequate for the moment, but if the area keeps growing, they won’t be. And if the region were to face any significant drought, it wouldn’t be prepared to handle it.

As a result, the Coalition has begun considering alternative options for water sources. So far they’ve studied different sources already existing within the state. But a new bill under consideration by the Oklahoma House of Representatives could change that, by allowing Oklahoma to sell its excess water to cities in Missouri. The current law prevents Oklahoma’s Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) from selling water outside of the state, but if the bill passes, it would change that. If it passes, up to 39 million gallons of water per day could be taken from Oklahoma’s Stockton Lake and transferred to Missouri.

Who Benefits?

Interestingly, Missouri’s Tri-State Water Resource Coalition isn’t who brought this bill forward. In fact, they didn’t ask for it at all. But if it passes, they say, it would provide Southwest Missouri with valuable water resources. The arrangement could be a “win-win,” benefitting Oklahoma as well. The money the state receives for the water could be used to help fix up and replace some of the state’s older water and sewer infrastructure. Some of the current water and sewer lines are over a hundred years old.

Oklahoma legislators say that this idea isn’t new. Decades ago, the state considered selling water to Texas. But this kind of legislation has never gained any serious traction in the past. The cost of setting up such a program, including all of the pipes and pumps to move the water, would be enormous–as much as $1 billion. And regardless of whether or not the deal goes through, the Southwest Missouri region will still need to construct a reservoir in which to store the water, regardless of whether it comes from Oklahoma or from other, in-state sources. Most water contracts are for fifty years, so authorities in both states will need to study the issue closely before proceeding.

The bill is currently pending within the Oklahoma House Rules Committee. But it’s not a high priority . . . which means that it’s likely to stay there for quite a while.

What Do You Think? Imagine you are an Oklahoma legislator. Would you be in favor of this bill? Why or why not?