Climate for those two decades consisted of “wet years. Our ancestors knew that Oklahoma experienced drought cycles every five to 10 years. For the last 10 years, we have been moving back to a more normal pattern of change and away from wet years.”

He said most of the land in Oklahoma receives and manages annual rainfall first. “Ag land is the first recipient, the first user and the first manager of precipitation. Everywhere else relies on agriculture to manage the ecosystems.

“We rely on agriculture practices to conserve water. We are able to improve stream flow and underground recharge with sound agriculture practices.”

Farming and ranching account for almost half of the state’s water use — irrigation takes about 40 percent and livestock 5 percent. Industry takes 33 percent energy accounts for 14 percent.

“All state users are expected to want more water in the future,” Sanders said.

Some areas will hurt more than others if water becomes scarce. West central Oklahoma, where irrigation use is heavy, may be hardest hit, Sanders said. “But we likely will see deficits across the state in the next 50 years.”

He said one concern is that a lot of ground and surface water flows out of Oklahoma “into other states without reimbursement. Allocation is a problem. We need to get water when we need it and where we need it and at a price we are willing to pay. That’s at the center of the water plan.”

Water use in Oklahoma has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. “It will change more in the next 50 years.”

The water use plan will incorporate numerous strategies to conserve and improve water supplies. Options include conservation, more efficient irrigation systems, crop rotation, new structures to hold water and improvements in the infrastructure, among other possibilities.

“We need to develop research programs, as well,” Sanders said.