NPR Story
3:23 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Chickasha Sells Water to Oil Driller to Help Pay For Water Infrastructure Needs

Chickasha, Okla.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Chickasha, Okla.

When a city needs $150 million over the next half-century for upgrades and repairs to its aging water infrastructure system, its leaders might have to get creative to find the money.

In Chickasha’s case, the solution is to turn — in part — to the oil and gas industry. As The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reported on Tuesday, the city has agreed to sell water from Lake Chickasha, which is primarily recreational, to Continental Resources.

[Chickasha City Manager Stewart Fairburn] said the city council approved in 2013 leasing land around Lake Chickasha for oil drilling. So far, the city has leased 4,000 acres around the recreational reservoir north of Verden, and Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc. has drilled the first well. The lake is not a source of the city’s water supply.

The paper reports the company paid about $30,000 for the damage drilling the well caused and a road to the well site, but that the city council hopes the well will be productive enough to garner royalty money.

Chickasha needs about $8 million to replace its water treatment plant alone, a project expected to take a decade to complete. The city needs about $30 million just to “replace its water intake valve at the Fort Cobb Reservoir, the source of the city’s drinking water.”

“We’re trying to fill the gap between what we can afford on our projects and what we need to do,” Fairburn said. “The pipes have been in the ground for 100 years, so we need to start replacing them.”

Residents approved an improvement tax in 2013 to increase water rates, and a large portion of that increase will fund wastewater projects, he said.

Fairburn told the paper drought was considered before the idea to sell water to Continental was approved, and Terry-Cobo reports it would take removing hundreds of millions of gallons of water to drop Lake Chickasha by a single foot. Fairburn did not know how much water it took to drill the first well.

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