Editor, The Ada News:
As citizens of Ada, we have been exposed to a deluge of information concerning the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer over the past few years. This important source of groundwater feeds Byrds Mill Spring and is captured at the surface to provide water to the city. During the summer when water use increases, Ada pumps groundwater from deep wells to supplement the surface water supply from the spring.
We attended the Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (CPASA) last Thursday at the Pontotoc Technology Center where speaker after speaker, including our mayor, congratulated themselves on their combined effort in establishing a maximum annual yield (MAY) for the aquifer.
That MAY represents a 90 percent reduction in Ada’s right to pump groundwater from its deep wells. If this sounds like a typo, we only wish it were. Soon, one of the more water-rich areas of the state will suffer from a self-inflicted shortage of affordable water under the most draconian restrictions in the entire State of Oklahoma.
Like most Adans, we have sat silently watching and listening while our city council has passed resolution after resolution in support of various efforts to “save” the aquifer. While the intent is noble, we believe the council has failed in its responsibility to the citizens of Ada. Our mayor assures us “there is plenty of water” in the aquifer and has thus requested a 20-year grace period within which to comply with the MAY. If there is enough water in the aquifer to accommodate such a lengthy grace period for Ada and its industries, we have to question whether Ada’s leaders should be congratulating themselves for supporting the proposed MAY as it stands.
We must understand our water bills are set to increase drastically. Whatever happens, as Amy Ford of CPASA says, “the days of cheap water are over.” This is the result of a major reduction in supply — not an actual reduction, but a government regulatory reduction actively supported by the city council. The portion of water we get from our wells will cost more — a lot more.
Ada will need to buy more land with groundwater rights; lease water rights from other landowners, or buy land and construct a reservoir to collect surface water. Faced with the very real possibility of insufficient funds for these options, the city could well be left with the unsavory alternative of condemning the property of private landowners through eminent domain for its groundwater rights. Obviously, eminent domain is not something the city’s leadership would want to discuss in a public venue, but this possibility remains as real as Ada’s funding limitations.
How big our water rate increase will be is driven by two facts: First, under the MAY regulations it will take 10 times as much acreage to support the same amount of well water we are currently allowed to pump and, secondly, the limited groundwater rights that are available have now become a very valuable commodity.
Our city fathers support the MAY, as presently written, hoping for a 20-year grace period within which to comply with its regulatory restrictions. State law has no provision for a grace period and once the MAY is finalized by the state, any pumping above the limit could be unlawful. We will be lucky to get a five-year period to come into compliance. Can we be ready and will we ultimately be able to pay our water bills?
George and Markia Matthews