Recent analysis of nonpoint source pollution reduction numbers from across the nation shows that Oklahoma ranks as the number two state in the nation when it comes to reducing nutrients from our streams and rivers. 

This is the third year in a row that Oklahoma has ranked in the top ten among states in reducing non-point source pollution from our water, moving from number eight, to number five to now ranking number two. 

Joe Parker, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), says this continued improvement in addressing water quality is a testimony to the success of the dedicated work done by farmers, ranchers and other landowners in partnership with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, local conservation districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to address these issues.

 “This success shows what can happen when we work together to solve problems,” Parker said.  “When we respect folk’s private property rights and when the State and Federal Governments give landowners the financial and technical assistance they need to make changes, we can accomplish great things.  Locally-led, voluntary conservation works and it is a critical part of our natural resource work in Oklahoma.”

Water quality numbers released at the beginning of February by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that in 2011, Oklahoma led the nation in phosphorus reduction in water with more than 2,878,481 pounds of phosphorus loading reduced due to voluntary best management practices across the state.  In addition, Oklahoma ranked third among the states in lowering nitrogen levels in water, reducing an estimated 2,884,526 pounds of loading of nitrogen last year. 

Oklahoma also reduced sedimentation by around 6,000 tons.  When these numbers are reviewed in comparison with the levels of non-point source pollution reduced by other states, Oklahoma was shown to ranked second in nutrient reduction in water.  This will be the third consecutive year that Oklahoma has ranked in the top ten among states in non-point source control while receiving less than 2 percent of all federal EPA non-point source pollution funds.

According to Clay Pope, Executive Director of OACD, this reduction shows the success of locally-led conservation efforts in addressing non-point source pollution and helps highlight why locally-led incentive based programs to address water quality should be included in water policy discussions both at the state and federal level.

“By using the delivery system consisting of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, local conservation districts and NRCS, we have been able to use Federal Clean Water Act and Farm Bill Conservation Title funds along with state dollars to partner with landowners in ways that are starting to turn the corner on some of Oklahoma’s toughest water quality problems,” Pope said. 

“We’re not only controlling pollution, but we also are taking into consideration the financial situation of the local landowner. This is the same kind of approach we used to tame the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and these numbers show it’s working again in the water quality area. Clearly we have a great model and it needs to be included in discussions of water both in Oklahoma and the nation. 

“You can have all the water in the world, but if it isn’t fit to drink, you don’t have much. These numbers prove that we are moving in the right direction in Oklahoma when it comes to water quality and we hope that our policy makers will continue to recognize what can be done when landowners and the government work cooperatively to solve these kinds of problems.”