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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempt to update the Clean Water Rule — also known as the waters of the U.S. rule — hit a snag today, with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to temporarily block its implementation.

It’s been decades since Tulsa decided the portion of the Arkansas River that runs through the city was too dirty and dangerous to swim in. The river is much cleaner now, but convincing the public it’s OK to hop in won’t be easy.

The Arkansas River is an iconic feature of Tulsa, cutting across downtown and winding through the west side of the city. But it has a bad reputation.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma County District Judge Barbara Swinton on Wednesday ordered the long disputed limits on how much water can be taken from one of the state’s most sensitive aquifers — the Arbuckle-Simpson in south-central Oklahoma — to go forward.

The court was hearing an appeal of the limit from groups including the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, Oklahoma Aggregates Association, and mining company TXI — all petitioners in the case.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Generations of tilling and planting on the same land have left Oklahoma’s soil in poor shape. And if farmers don’t change the way they grow crops, feeding the future won’t be easy. As Slapout, Okla., farmer Jordan Shearer puts it: “We’re creating a desert environment by plowing the damn ground.”



The company that runs Hugo’s water treatment plant is contesting the $3.17 million fine the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality levied against it for — as the Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reported in August — not using “enough chlorine for more than 300 days over the course of two years.”

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Almost half of the water used by Oklahomans comes from aquifers, and four years of drought increased that reliance. This year’s record-setting rainfall filled up the state’s lakes, but recharging aquifers doesn’t happen so quickly.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board uses underground sensors to monitor groundwater levels at several sites across the state.

But the sensors’ accuracy needs to be checked manually, which means piling into an SUV with scientists and heading to the country.

On a recent trip to the Spencer Mesonet Station, water resources geologist Jessica Correll attached a metal probe to a long tape measure and fed it down into the Garber-Wellington Aquifer.

The probe descended about 50 feet before striking water.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

More than 2,000 dams in Oklahoma have protected lives and property from flooding for decades. But age is catching up with them, and many need repairs. And this spring’s record rainfall is putting dams under even more pressure.

Catastrophic flooding used to just be part of life in Oklahoma. Ask anyone who was around in the late 1950s, like Allen Hensley, who grew up on Rock Creek in south-central Oklahoma.

“My dad took me down and showed me Rock Creek when I was a boy; and a beautiful corn crop,” Hensley says. “And the next day it was water, flooded.”


The McClellan-Kerr Navigation System that connects the Port of Catoosa — the nation’s furthest inland seaport — to the Gulf of Mexico is “a hell of a mess” after the area got nearly 20 inches of rain in May and June, port director Bob Portiss tell’s the Tulsa World.

Cities in drought-plagued California took water conservation seriously in May. Residential water use went down by 28.9 percent in May, according to a press release from the State Water Resources Control Board.

In 1922, seven Western states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California — drew up an agreement on how to divide the waters of the Colorado River. But there was one big problem with the plan: They overestimated how much water the river could provide.

As a result, each state was promised more water than actually exists. This miscalculation — and the subsequent mismanagement of water resources in those states — has created a water crisis that now affects nearly 40 million Americans.