Other states have followed similar procedures in developing water use plans and in most of those, “… agriculture has lost. We have cautioned the board about that. Access to water is essential for agriculture to remain sustainable in Oklahoma, and agriculture is essential to Oklahoma’s rural and urban economies.”

Agriculture provides a $28 billion total benefit to the Oklahoma economy.

Farming and ranching also play crucial roles in water conservation, maintaining clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat. “To keep those, we have to maintain a profitable agricultural economy.”

Water resources have been adequate to supply the state’s varied needs, but Sanders cautioned conference participants that increased demand and uncertain weather patterns could jeopardize supply.

“Average rainfall for Oklahoma has averaged 34 inches per year for the last 100 years,” he said. But the last 20 years of the 20th century may have been an aberration instead of a new norm for increased rainfall.