Water works

For most of us, it’s a quick twist of the faucet or spigot and we have clean water for drinking; bathing; cooking our favorite meals; and irrigating our yards, gardens and crops.

Such easy access to water creates the illusion there’s an endless supply of the life-giving and life-sustaining natural resource. But, as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

Throughout my life, water has been a constant, not only as a biological necessity, but also as a source of spiritual and intellectual sustenance. As a boy in rural Iowa, I found water to be something that connected me to the mystery of nature. I could entertain myself for a day simply exploring the life in a flooded ditch or a small stream. An evening of catfishing with my father and family friends was more excitement than anything else in my world.

That fascination with water served me well through college, where I had opportunities to study clear trout streams and the mighty Mississippi River during my summer months. In graduate school, I was fortunate to study the deep, blue, pristine waters of Lake Tahoe and Lake Titicaca.

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Since then, I’ve explored and studied the Great Lakes, Caribbean coral reefs, and rivers and streams of all sizes. Nothing is more core to my career than the common thread of water. And given the challenges we face in Oklahoma and across North America now and in the future, water remains a topic of great importance to us all.

As a land-grant institution and, more specifically, a division with a strong tradition of protecting and nurturing Oklahoma’s robust agriculture and natural resources, OSU and DASNR are especially sensitive to water-related issues and concerns across the state and throughout the nation.

That’s why it should come as no surprise that the Oklahoma Water Resources Center is based right here at OSU and is housed under DASNR. As part of its research and Extension activities, the OWRC is gearing up to celebrate United Nations World Water Day on March 22 and OSU Water Week March 23-27.

Mark your calendars now for a full slate of activities. There promises to be a little something for everyone, including the 40-gallon Challenge Day, which calls for students, faculty and staff to reduce their average water use per person per day.

This is good practice for all Oklahomans. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has framed a strategic plan that includes a goal of using no more water in Oklahoma in the year 2060 than we did in the year 2010. Conservation, efficiency, careful reuse and other tactics will be needed in order to achieve this nation-leading goal. Now is a good time for each of us to start learning how we can succeed in conserving our water now and in the future.

I’m proud of DASNR’s leadership and commitment to not just studying water and all the ways it can affect Oklahomans’ quality of life, but also teaching and sharing with others about ways to wisely use and care for our natural resources. Thanks to Dr. Garey Fox and Ms. Leslie Elmore for their efforts to make the OWRC a leader in helping Oklahoma realize its strategic water goals.