Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Norman voters in January approved a water rate increase to pay for much needed improvements at the city’s water treatment plant, and in 2014, the city council decided to meet Norman’s future water needs through reuse and wells, rather than rely mor

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

It was around this time last year that the Norman City Council decided to stake its water future on reuse — sending cleaned wastewater back into Lake Thunderbird, the city’s main water source. It’s an ambitious, future-looking plan Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal says is in line with the state’s goal of using no more water in 2060 than it did in 2012.

But Norman isn’t the only city that relies on Lake Thunderbird for its water, and Midwest City and Del City would also need to be behind the plan before it goes before the Department of Environmental Quality for approval.

They aren’t.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where utility rates are determined by a vote of the people — who aren’t always willing to charge themselves more for water. A proposal to change that came before the city council last week. StateImpact’s Logan Layden was there to hear the debate, and reports on the lessons other cities can glean from a more democratic, but less efficient way of setting water rates.


Oklahoma’s third largest city is at a water crossroads.

Norman is updating its strategic water supply plan to make sure it has enough to meet growing demand over the next 50 years. And the city council’s choice is between reliance on Oklahoma City and water from southeast Oklahoma, or reusing its own wastewater.

After two years of study and public input, more than a dozen plans were narrowed down to two, portfolio 14 and portfolio 13.

Portfolio 14

Though his voice is now silent, a gay Oklahoma teen's words live on in a documentary that premiered at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History last night.  Broken Heart Land focuses on 19-year-old Zachary Harrington of Norman.  He committed suicide in 2010, after keeping his HIV-positive diagnosis a secret for over a year.   Hear about the Norman screening, then listen to a full-length interview with KOSU's Nikole Robinson Carroll, Director Jeremy Stulberg and the Harrington family below.

A water tower in Norman, Okla.

Melissa Megginson / Flickr

A water tower in Norman, Okla.