water

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.”

Flickr / USACETULSA

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.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Recycling sewage water has helped free Israel, a desert country, from depending on rain.

Treated sewage water provides close to a quarter of Israel's demand for water, right behind desalination, the other major process that has eased Israel's fear of drought.

But making that water — from toilets, showers, and factories — clean enough to use is challenging.

New York state's Seneca Lake is the heart of the Finger Lakes, a beautiful countryside of steep glacier-carved hills and long slivers of water with deep beds of salt. It's been mined on Seneca's shore for more than a century.

The Texas company Crestwood Midstream owns the mine now, and stores natural gas in the emptied-out caverns. It has federal approval to increase the amount, and it's seeking New York's OK to store 88 million gallons of propane as well.

Tyler / Flickr

Slow moving storms that dumped record amounts of rain on Oklahoma in April and May killed the five-year drought, but damaged wheat crops in western Oklahoma. This after one of the worst wheat harvests on record in 2014.

New data from NASA's GRACE satellites show that many of the world's biggest aquifers are being sucked dry at a rate far greater than they are being replenished. Although scientists don't know how much water is left, they hope their findings will serve as a "red flag" for regions that may be overusing water.

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