A majority of Oklahomans agree with the ban on the sale of water to out-of-state water districts and communities with inadequate water supply, like in Texas. When asked 54.1 percent of Oklahomans oppose the sale of water, while only 31 percent support it.
“These numbers indicate that, not only are Oklahomans divided on the issue, but may not fully understand the issues surrounding the sale of water to other states,” said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll, who went on to note that, economically, there is a lot to gain by selling excess water to Texas.
SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 1000 likely voters from February 25 – March 8. The study has a margin of error of ± 3.1 percent.
The sale of water has recently become an issue of much debate in Oklahoma cities that are struggling economically yet have millions of gallons of water available for sale. Hugo is one such city.
Hugo lake is the source of much of the drinking water for the citizens of Hugo. The lake provides more than enough water to meet the towns needs, but State law prohibits the sale of water to out-of-state water districts in need.
The citizens of Hugo quietly watch as the excess water they could sell to provide much-needed infrastructure improvements travels the short distance to the Red River where it becomes salty and unusable.
The reason that the Oklahoma legislature is so weary of selling off the natural resource is environmental. The initiative to protect the resource was put forth by Sen. Jerry Ellis (D-Valiant) who believes that selling it could offset a delicate environmental balance in southern Oklahoma’s Red River Basin.
“The problem is that when large quantities of water are pulled before it mixes with the Red River, the salinity goes up in the river,” Ellis said. “The quality and quantity of water is going to go down.”
Interestingly, 54.7 percent of conservatives agree with the democratic senator who spearheaded the movement to oppose the sale of water. Similarly, 38 percent of liberals, who are usually sympathetic to environmental causes, support the sale of water.