Rural Water Districts would no longer have to pay to use water controlled by the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) under legislation unanimously approved recently in the Senate. Sen. Kim David, author of Senate Bill 248, said the legislation has been needed for some time to even the playing field between the Rural Water Districts and local municipalities.
“Certain municipalities have already been allowed to take water from the Grand River for free so it only seems right that all municipalities and Oklahoma Rural Water Districts receive equal treatment,” said David, R-Wagoner.
SB 248 would allow Rural Water Districts to take “raw” or untreated water from the lakes or tributaries under the control of the Grand River Dam Authority for free. Rural Water Districts have previously been required to buy water from the GRDA, which is a state agency. Oklahoma Rural Water Districts are by statute also agencies of the State of Oklahoma. They function to provide safe drinking water to rural residents.
In most instances, water purchased from GRDA has been taken by the Water Districts at points along the Grand River that are past or below the Pensacola Dam, which is the third and last dam owned and controlled by the GRDA. This is surplus water which would otherwise flow out of the state if not used by local entities.
“This bill will encourage utilization of water resources in Oklahoma, by Oklahomans - lowering the cost of water to rural residents and benefiting Oklahoma's economy,” said David.
David noted the Districts pay for all infrastructure, purification and distribution costs. Districts do not assess or collect taxes. All water costs are paid for by the District's rate payers. None of the costs expended by Rural Water Districts are at taxpayer expense.
SB 248 is now awaiting further consideration by the House Energy and Utility Regulation Committee.