Voluntary actions taken by Oklahoma’s farmers, ranchers and other landowners in partnership with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and local conservation districts to reduce non-point source pollution in water has led to the recommendation that eleven Oklahoma streams be removed from the federal list of “impaired” water bodies and that over 150 additional targeted streams and stream segments now not be listed for any water quality impairments according to Senator Ron Justice, R-Chickasha, Chair of the Oklahoma State Senate Natural Resources Appropriations Sub-Committee.

“We are very excited that eleven more Oklahoma streams have been targeted for removal from the state impaired-waters list and that we have been able to keep even more streams from going on that list,” Justice said. “We are proud of the real progress we are making in improving water quality in Oklahoma and we are proud that we are doing it in a way that solves the problem while respecting landowners’ private property rights.”

Representative Don Armes, R-Faxon, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Appropriations Sub-committee agreed, noting that this continued success in improving water quality shows that Oklahoma’s voluntary approach using the partnership of the Conservation Commission, local conservation districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working well. 

“By using the Conservation Partnership as our delivery system to get best management practices on the ground, we have been able to get USDA conservation programs, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean water programs and state conservation dollars working together.  By using Federal Clean Water Act Section 319 dollars from the EPA in conjunction with Farm Bill Conservation Program dollars from USDA NRCS, combined with water monitoring from the Conservation Commission and the local leadership provided by our conservation districts, we have been able to partner with landowners in ways that are turning the corner on some of our toughest water quality challenges,” Armes said. 

“We’re not only controlling pollution, but we also are taking into consideration the financial situation of the local landowners.  Clearly Oklahoma has a great model.”

According to the lawmakers, approximately 500 streams statewide are monitored on a rotating basis every five years by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to determine if they are attaining water quality standards, particularly those impaired by nonpoint or diffuse sources.  This information, along with other agency efforts, is then used to determine Oklahoma’s proposed impaired-waters list, which is then submitted to the EPA for review and final approval.  The water bodies put on this list then compromise what is commonly referred to as the state 303(d) list.

Last spring eight Oklahoma streams had seen enough reduction in non-point source pollution to be removed from the 303(d) list.  In addition, another 170 streams were not placed on this list due largely to the work done by agriculture producers and other landowners to address non-point source issues in their watersheds.   

According to Clay Pope, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), this recommendation of eleven more streams to come off of the state’s 303(d) list shows that Oklahoma’s approach to non-point source pollution control, using voluntary, incentive based programs that work cooperatively with agriculture producers and other landowners is working.

“Our efforts in the area of water quality are truly bearing fruit,” Pope said.  “If you look at the success we have had in Oklahoma and compare it to the results shown by other states, Oklahoma clearly has one of the best if not the best non-point source pollution reduction program in the country. 

“In 2010, Oklahoma led the nation in the reduction of phosphorous from our water and we were number three in reducing the nitrogen level in our water.  This past year we were number one in reported reductions from both phosphorus and nitrogen.  This is a real testament to what we can accomplish when state and federal governments give us the resources necessary to allow this kind of cooperative work to take place on the ground and we are hopeful that we will continue to see the level of support necessary from our policy makers to keep showing this level of success.”