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Agricultural News

New Inter-Agency Alliance Strengthens Oklahoma Rural Water Infrastructure, Promotes Sustainability for the Future

Wed, 04 Sep 2019 11:56:52 CDT

New Inter-Agency Alliance Strengthens Oklahoma Rural Water Infrastructure, Promotes Sustainability for the Future On Tuesday, Governor Kevin Stitt signed an agreement formalizing a strategic alliance between the Oklahoma State Secretary of Energy and Environment, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Rural Water Association. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn caught up with J.R. Welch, sustainability services program director for the Oklahoma Rural Water Association, to talk about this historic agreement and the impact it will have in Oklahoma’s rural communities. You can listen to Horn’s complete conversation with Welch, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.

The alliance agreement signed by the Governor commits the organizations to work together and combine their resources to help meet the missions of the organizations and to improve the sustainability of Oklahoma rural and small community water and wastewater systems.

“This signing was monumental for the state of Oklahoma. We have a lot of rural water districts and small municipalities across the state that have a lot of great infrastructure needs,” Welch remarked after the signing ceremony. “This signing solidifies the relationship between our organization, the DEQ and the Water Resources Board, which will allow us to pool our resources together, go out and work with these communities and rural water systems to become more sustainable.”

According to Welch, many of Oklahoma’s rural communities are dealing with water and wastewater systems that range anywhere from 70 to 100 years old. It has been revealed through regular audits conducted by the ORWA’s Leak Detection Team, that these aging systems leak upwards of 30% of available water resources - costing these affected small communities significantly. In some cases, Welch says the leakage rate can be as high as 60 to 70%.

The program this alliance was built on has shown early signs of success, according to Welch. With an initial goal of reducing rural water leakage by half, Welch reports that most attempts have exceeded those expectations. The program has also helped set up rural water systems across the state for continued success by training and equipping local stakeholders with the tools and skills they need to run their systems more sustainably drawing from modern business practices and principles. With 22 systems currently operating under the program, Welch says the statewide savings total more than $406,000.

“We’re excited to bring this program out to these systems. It teaches them to run themselves more like a business, to be sustainable themselves and to set aside those funds for their capital improvement needs to fix aging infrastructure they’re dealing with on a daily basis and going into the future,” he said. “When we’re done with this program, we leave that system with a toolbox to cover everything from A to Z that they are going to need to be sustainable in this business.”



Hear Horn's full conversation with Welch, discussing the impact of OK's new water alliance, tap below
right-click to download mp3


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