Path Home Shows 2009 Show Archive October 2009 Show 0943 Water Tour

Water Tour

State lawmakers headed out this fall to see first-hand the work that needs to be done to keep Southwest Oklahoma's most precious resource flowing.
Water Tour

Water tour

Show Dates

Show 0943: Water Tour

Air date: October 25, 2009



Rob:  When it comes to water, no part of the state is more dependent upon it, yet has less of it, than southwestern Oklahoma.  Home to both big agriculture and thirsty cities, that area of our state has benefited from a well-crafted water use plan that goes back decades.  Which is why state lawmakers headed out this fall to see firsthand the work that needs to be done to keep that area’s most precious resource flowing.

Rob:  It was a bus ride through some of the driest sections of the state, on one of the area’s wettest days, lawmakers stopping to take a look at why water is such a big deal for Southwestern Oklahoma.

Don Armes:  We are in the driest corner of the state, and it’s pretty green here for where we’ve been; and as you move to the southwest, which we’re going to do pretty rapidly, you’re going to see a lot drier vegetation, even after the rain it’s, we’ve had a tough drought; I mean, it’s been bad the last several weeks.

Rob:  Representative Don Armes knows this area well.

Armes:  We are getting ready to go through Cookie Town in just a little bit.  For a little reference, Cookie Town is a Baptist church and an intersection; and in southwestern Oklahoma we call that a community.

Rob:  One of many in this part of the state needing more water.  Armes told his colleagues that the time has come to re-examine how we use our water resources.

Don:  It’s still good country.  But we’ve got to figure out how to take care of the water down here, and how to capture that water.  And my thoughts are, Texas you can have all you want once we catch all we can use.  And I think that’s kind of what I’d like to see happen is, I’d like to see us in some way, shape, or form catch all we can use, and if Texas has to have some of it, fine.  But let’s catch some and get some gathered up for us, whether it’s for irrigation, whether it’s for recreation, or whether it’s for useful use.

Rob:  Lawmakers hit the back roads to see firsthand the role water plays in our environment and in our economy.  Dale DeWitt is Chair of the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee and says water is our state’s most precious commodity.

Dale:  Water, no matter where you are talking about water, whether it’s this state or any other state, it becomes an economic engine.  If you don’t have water, you’re not going to increase your economy.  You’re not going to draw people to you.

Rob:  And nowhere is it more evident than in the town of Altus.  Located in far southwestern Oklahoma, its economy is dependent on cotton, and cotton dependent upon this water reservoir.

Tom Buchanan:  Cotton is king in Jackson County.  It’s what drives the local economy, to the tune of about three hundred and twenty to about three hundred and fifty million dollars annually to the local economy, and that does not take into account whenever those dollars start to turn over in the state economy.  So we’re a giant shot in the arm not only to southwest Oklahoma on an annual basis, but to Oklahoma as a whole.

Rob:  Tom Buchanan manages the local irrigation district that makes such production possible.  Showing lawmakers how each year, as lake levels drop irrigation does its job.  Water that eventually lines up right here, this is one of just about three hundred miles of irrigation ditches that spread across this area.  From the first of July through about the first of September, it’ll carry about four foot of water, feeding some of the most prime crop land in this area.

Mat Muller:  Irrigation is critical in this part of the country.

Rob:  Local cotton farmer, Matt Muller.

Matt:  I have a track record, of making a profitable dry land cotton crop about three-out-of-ten years.

Rob:  Muller says thanks to water from this irrigation district, farmers here are competitive in a global market.

Matt:  We are a consistent good quality supplier of cotton fiber to the world.

Rob:  Thanks to water resources here in southwestern Oklahoma, that benefits more than just farmers.

Tom:  In reality, I think that one of the things that we can’t overlook is that there’s also a great need for additional high quality municipal supply.  There’s also a need for industrial supply of water.  And on top of all of that, people today need more recreation opportunities than they’ve had in the past, than they have even today.  When this lake was built, for example, back in the early 30s, the early 40s, that is when people didn’t recreate like we do today.  Our forefathers worked from daylight to dark, just to put food on the table and put clothes on their back.  Today we have a lifestyle that we’re deeply ingratiated to those people.  We owe a deep debt to them, and as a result of that, we are able to recreate today; so I believe that future water resource development will allow people to not only have water for Ag and municipal and industrial supplies, but will also meet the needs for recreation, tourism and wildlife.