U.S. Water News Online
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fights between rural water districts and
municipal governments over water rights has escalated with the
formation of a group specifically intended to protect Oklahoma cities
in such disputes.
Danny George, executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League,
says the move was necessary because the Oklahoma Rural Water
Association consistently sided against communities that wanted to
expand. Instead of fighting cities' growth, George said the
association should stick to the job of making sure rural homes have
safe drinking water.
``Nothing should be permitted to interfere with the economic
growth of Oklahoma's cities and towns,'' he said. ``Economic
development is in everyone's best interest.''
Rural Water Association Executive Director Gene Whatley said he
regrets that the Municipal League formed the rival group and is
trying to keep communities from quitting his organization. A letter
from Whatley to cities and towns in the Rural Water Association said
member dues are not spent on litigation between rural and water urban
``This has been going on since the early 1980s,'' Whatley said.
``But it is getting more intense now. I am really disappointed that
the league is taking this tactic to try to address the problem. To
me, they kind of have taken it to a personal level.''
The Municipal League's new group is called the Associated
Municipal Water Providers.
Recent problems between municipal and rural water districts
include a disagreement between Holdenville and a neighboring district
over who would sell water to a private prison and a lawsuit against
McAlester filed by a water district that wanted service rights to an
industrial park and fairgrounds.
In Union City, a dispute with a rural water district has left a
fire station without toilets. Firefighters must also haul in the
water they use on fire trucks.
Whatley and George say the service disputes happen because rural
water district boundaries were drawn right up to city limit lines
decades ago. They said no one thought about what would happen once
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