The U.S. daily average of water pumped by public water supply systems is 185 gallons per person. This is one reason Shawnee Mayor Wes Mainord appointed a committee to study and promote the conservation of water.
The Shawnee Area Water Conservation Committee consists of representatives of many local and state agencies including Career Tech, Natural Resources Conservators, Oklahoma Rural Water, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Conservation Commissions, School Administrators, and city administrators from this area.
Dr. Joe Taron, chairman of the Pottawatomie County Development Authority, said the mission of the committee is to assure a safe and reliable supply of water to meet the needs of all citizens for the next 50 years, based on the best available science, through a process designed to be as inclusive, fair and transparent as possible.
"In order to accomplish our mission, it was decided our water needs the protection of leaders willing to make tough decisions, rather than the impossible promise of those who try to please everyone," he said.
Marty Lewis, Gordon Cooper Technology Center superintendent, said the committee is focused on two things: educating kids and educating the public on water conservation. Lewis heads up the k-12 program, which educates students from local schools on the importance of conserving water, while Mainord and Taron focus on educating the public.
"We have to think long term," Mainord said, pointing out many people only think short term when it comes to conserving water.
The reality is long-term; people have to be a lot more prudent with water use, Lewis said.
"All the water we are ever going to have on the planet is already here," he said.
Lewis said some citizens think the answer is to just build another reservoir if water runs low but he pointed out the cost of building Wes Watkins was greater than the cost of building the Sardis Lake reservoir, located near Clayton, because of the time period it was built. With time, the cost of building such things go up so if another reservoir is built, it would be extremely expensive and not the correct answer to the problem, he said.
"What we've got to look at is how we can be viable as a community," Lewis said.
Taron said the committee recognized the cheapest source of new water is conservation.
"To accomplish this, we must educate all the consumers," explained.
The citizens in Shawnee city limits are not the only ones encouraged to begin or continue water conservation, Lewis said.
He included citizens within the region who use water provided by Shawnee.
"If we want water 50 years into the future, we don't need to find new sources of water but instead take care of our existing water sources," Lewis added.
Page 2 of 2 - Typically, at least 50 percent of water consumed by households is used outdoors watering lawns. Mainord said during this week's rainfall, he passed two yards with the sprinklers going. Turning off an automatic sprinkling system during times of rainfall is one thing citizens could do to conserve, he said.
Mainord said there are many ways citizens can conserve water. One example he said he began doing himself to conserve is to turn the water off when he brushes his teeth. He said this is something kids learn while watching shows like Sesame Street but something most adults don't know to do.
"We just don't think about those things," he said.
Mainord and Lewis gave an example of how much water can be saved if each person just saved one gallon a day. If 69,000 people saved one gallon of water a day, they would save 25 million gallons a year.
"It's a tough sale when water's flowing," Mainord said.
He said some people have used recent rainfall as an excuse to not conserve water.
"We're fortunate and lucky to have this recent rain," he said. "But it is not a renewable resource."
Lewis agreed, adding there have been many months without rain and that could easily happen again as it does in many areas of Oklahoma.
"I firmly believe water, not in my generation but some day, will be more valuable than oil," Mainord said.
Lewis said while it might be hard for citizens within city limits to see the hardship of not conserving water, it really affects farmers.
"In reality, some of our best conservationists are farmers," he noted, adding most farmers have been conserving for years because they know how bad situations can be with not enough water.
Taron said in future meetings, the committee intends to continue collections of water saving techniques and plan to continue informing other categories of citizens including adults, senior citizens, industry and municipalities.