The water supply system for the 10,000 new citizens back then was one well and “bring your own bucket.” It wasn’t long before more wells were drilled. In 1908, the city purchased the water supply totaling some 14 wells and pipe. But the wells often went dry in the summer when life-sustaining water is most critical.
By 1910, city leaders began work on a water supply lake to ensure its 35,000 citizens would always have water. Lake Overholser was completed in 1918 and is still part of the water system today. Plans began immediately for a second water supply lake.
In the 1930s, the state suffered the worst droughts and floods in recorded history. At the same time, the state was experiencing economic growth in oil exploration and production.
Construction of another storage facility, Lake Hefner, began. But construction was stopped during World War II for lack of materials and manpower. Following the war, the lake was completed in 1947. The Hefner Water Treatment Plant went into operation shortly thereafter.
As Lake Hefner was being built, city leaders were already creating long-range plans for water supply. In 1961, with a population of 324,000, the city undertook a $62 million project to bring water from 100 miles away. The city bought land and built Lakes Atoka and Draper, a 100-mile pipeline, six pump stations, a water treatment plant and transmission lines to deliver tap water.
More than 50 years ago, the Water Utilities Trust worked with the federal government to build Sardis Reservoir for flood control and water storage. Construction started in 1974 and the project was completed in 1983.
A water supply study completed in 2009 estimates Central Oklahoma’s water needs will double to 316 million gallons a day by 2060. In June 2010, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust acquired a water storage contract for 136,000 acre-feet of water in Sardis Reservoir. Plans are under way for a water use permit.
With that, the additional water supply in Sardis Reservoir will provide water to about one-third of all Oklahomans for the next 60 years. That project has been jeopardized by the lawsuit filed by the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes against
Oklahoma City and the state in August of 2011. The tribes are claiming unprecedented water rights in the Kiamichi, Clear Boggy and Muddy Boggy Basins in Southeast Oklahoma. The tribes are also claiming the right-of-way for the Atoka Pipeline. Oklahoma City has been using the Atoka Pipeline for 50 years to bring water to the City and Central Oklahoma. The city and Water Utilities Trust are committed to preserving the water rights of the citizens of Oklahoma.
The city is supporting the State of Oklahoma in their effort to create a fair and comprehensive solution for all water permit holders in Southeast Oklahoma. That legal process is underway.