Eastern lectureship addresses water issues in Oklahoma


Eastern President Dr. Stephen Smith (far left) gathers with panelists (left to right) Charlette Hearne, Marguerite Chapman and J.D. Strong at the college’s Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lectureship “What’s the Big Deal About Water in Oklahoma?”
WILBURTON, OK (Feb. 10, 2014) – Eastern Oklahoma State College recently hosted the 10th Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lectureship Series to help raise awareness about water issues in the state. From access policies to conservation efforts, water continues to be an intensely debated issue in Oklahoma.

Panelists for the event included J.D. Strong, Charlette Hearne and Marguerite Chapman. The lectureship was open to the public which brought in many of the area’s surrounding community members and legislators Rep. Brian Renegar and Senator Larry Boggs.

The title of the presentation was “What’s the Big Deal About Water in Oklahoma?”

“Well in fact, water has always been an issue in Oklahoma,” said Strong, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. “However, water only becomes a hot topic when we are in a shortage. Water has once again stepped into the forefront because of how serious of a drought western Oklahoma and Texas are in right now. Many Oklahomans think of the Dust Bowl as the worst drought in Oklahoma’s history, but actually in the 1950s was the worst drought in the state.” Strong went on to explain, “the drought that western Oklahoma is in right now may surpass the drought that crippled the same areas in the 1950s.”

Hearne is president of Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy, a statewide, grassroots citizens’ organization created to protect Oklahoma’s water resources, environment and way of life. She was recently appointed to Oklahoma’s Water for 2060 Advisory Council.

“Another reason water is becoming important is because our state’s population is increasing and that means that our state’s lakes are having to be built up, creating sedimentation. What will become of our lakes, rivers and aquifers? We have to think about the bigger picture and what our generation can do to help preserve our greatest resource,” Hearne said.

Chapman, professor emeritus of law at the University of Tulsa, specializes in water law and was the featured speaker on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Tarrant Regional Water District case at the Red River Valley Association’s annual Oklahoma Water Resources Conference in 2013.

“There is one thing that everyone needs to know by heart, the most important resource for sustained growth in our state is water,” Chapman said. “Conservation is the key to our future; other states and cities are learning and creating systems to help preserve the water that is available to those communities.”

All of the speakers emphasized that Oklahomans have to educate themselves on the state’s water issues and water preservation, controlling how wisely and efficiently water is used. Chapman and Hearne both drew comparisons to the oil and gas industry. While Hearne stated that she believes water will become more expensive than gas in the near future, Chapman solidified that statement by adding that water “is the new oil of the 21st century.”

EOSC sophomore Jamie Finks contributed to this story.

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