Water study fast tracked as deadline nears

MUSTANG- Guernsey Engineering is fast tracking its study for building a brackish water desalination plant in Canadian County as officials race toward an April deadline.

Central Oklahoma Water Resources Authority trustees are expecting results by April 15, leaving leaders time to bring any needs to state lawmakers before the Oklahoma Legislature adjourns on May 31.

Guernsey Senior Vice President Ken Senour told COWRA members this study was initially planned for a six-month timeline, but it will now take place in less than three months.

“The schedule has gotten significantly compressed,” he said.

COWRA voted to hire Guernsey in October and reached a contract for $99,950 on Dec. 21. Guernsey Engineers have started laying the groundwork, Senour said, and were scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29, with Canadian County Commissioner Jack Stewart, Okarche Mayor Richard Raupe, COWRA consultant Shawn Lepard, Yukon City Manager Grayson Bottom and Mustang City Manager Mike Rutledge, who make up the COWRA subcommittee overseeing the study. Workers will then visit existing water wells and pipelines owned by partner cities.

In this first phase, researchers are determining water sources that are available and the substances in the water to determine what sort of treatment would be needed to make it drinkable. The study will also include information about the community’s future water needs and the cities’ water lines and will propose locations for water wells, treatment plants and transmission lines.

It will include a proposed pilot project cost should COWRA members decide to push forward as well as a rough estimate for the costs of building and operating the treatment plant as well as how they would dispose of the waste products.

Lepard said he intends to schedule a meeting with COWRA and state legislators in April to discuss the findings and seek support. Building a reverse-osmosis desalination plant on this scale would be trailblazing in Oklahoma. COWRA trustees have said the biggest stumbling block could be regulations regarding the disposal of salty waste products leftover after the water is cleaned.

With the lingering drought, Stewart said COWRA’s study is taking on a greater importance. Oklahoma City officials have announced a mandatory even-odd outdoor watering restriction because their reservoirs have sunk below 50 percent of capacity. Those watering restrictions affect all of Oklahoma City’s customers, including Mustang, Yukon and El Reno.

“Water rationing in January – this is critical what we are doing,” Stewart said.

Duane Smith, former Oklahoma Water Resources Director, told COWRA members their study is gaining attention statewide.

“If you think the drought is going to continue there will be a lot of bills filed,” he said. “There will be a lot of policy around this state. If you think it is going to rain, all of this will go away. It always does.”

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