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District 2 Water Outages January 2021

Parts of Okmulgee Co. Rural Water District 2 (ORWD2) have been affected by water outages.

There are numerous situations that have caused the problems to date.  Every year when cold Winter temperatures set in, issues arise for all water districts. The ground freezes and expands, water line expand and contract, earth shifts and the ground moves causing stress to the system subsequently causing lines to break.  

District 2 said their complications began way before these current outages, “We have been fixing more leaks than ever over the past month.  Then came the holidays, combined with more people being home from Covid-19. It all begins with higher water usage as more residents are home preparing for guests and celebrations, kids are home on break.  If we have any kind of major break there are times that our system cannot keep up,” said the District Manager Valerie Rice.  

According to Rice this is what happened on Friday when a recent repair broke loose on a large line that drained the Twin Hills water tower. “It’s our smallest water tower that only holds, 52,000 gallons. It’s amazing how quickly it can be sucked dry from a substantial leak.”  

Being too much for the system to keep up with produced an onset of other problems, most importantly affecting their main pump station that would not continually pump and in-turn depleted their main and largest storage of 4 towers, causing outages in Twin Hills and the Town of Preston.  

“We immediately went into emergency protocol with all hands on deck. This put into motion a series of trouble shooting with pump stations, manipulating our SCADA system, and shutting and opening valves to isolate the area. We start at the entry point of our system. We have over 416 square miles of line so there is a lot to cover, but we do have electronic systems to assist us in pinpointing more quickly plus our knowledge of what has been ongoing in the field. Part of our work is on the ground and the other on the computer. I have to commend my team of water operators; they have had minimal sleep for days and everyone keeps driving on. We have a great mentality at District 2. We all know this is what we signed up for and employees are ready when the going gets tough,” Rice said.   

ORWD2 purchases the majority of their water from the City of Okmulgee and around 20% from City of Beggs. “We got approval to take more water from our Beggs tower and that was our saving grace. We could use our emergency separation valves and bring water from Beggs into the areas without water.” 

Other emergency steps set in action was utilizing the SoonerWarn program an Alliance of the Oklahoma Rural Water Association (ORWA). “We had an ORWA circuit rider working with us within 30 minutes. ORWA assist with leak detection tools and a host of other resources. They work behind the scenes to coordinate a team with other Districts to come and assist. We also brought on emergency helpers and have hired three private contractors, our fire fighters, school superintendents are always the best, plus God Bless our Board members who are always ready and willing to help.  

We also have a text alerts system for customers who have signed up.  Okmulgee Emergency management was called. They sent out water buffalo storage tanks so people could fill their personal containers with water. These tanks are still positioned and available during daylight hours at the Twin Hills school.      

Rice said speaking with her neighboring water districts they are combatting the same problem with leaks. “I have spoken with Rick Boone the District Manager of District 6 in the Hectorville community a few times this week as we share repair parts back in forth etc.  On one call I asked, what are you up to? He said out in the field, walking lines looking for leaks. Meanwhile his team is on other sites on line repairs.” 

"Some customers are upset saying they have never had problems like this for many years. However, it is not 10, 5 or even 2 years ago. Our district is growing and growing fast, we have more memberships each month than last year and last year, more than the previous. With the development of South Tulsa, everyone is moving this way looking for land to purchase. Not to mention the marijuana farmers coming in. Currently they are not using that much water. Our largest grower is using an eighth of water some of our ranchers use per month. We have one that is catching rain water and using a well. Each new membership is passed by our engineers, meaning the system can handle the new tap. However, we are on a very strict guideline and have put some memberships on hold and others denied unless upgrades are funded. We are curently seeking grants and USDA funding for more development. We can all see how long it took the City of Okmulgee to build their new water tower which is still not totally complete. It doesn't happen overnight.”

“District 2 has aging lines that were installed in the 1960’s. There are projects ongoing to upgrade lines to make the system better for all customers. In order to make the system better, there will be outages during construction that cannot be helped.”

“Right now, we are doing our best with a 5-employee operation who work each day to improve the system.”