Layden spoke on campus March 23, as part of a series of programs centered around the book “Water Matters,” this year’s library selection in the OCCC Reads program.
Oklahoma lakes bring in a lot of tourism to the state, which in turn brings revenue, Layden said. But the lakes weren’t built for recreation. They were built to control floods and provide drinking water.
Tourism is the third largest source of revenue for Oklahoma, Layden said, after the oil and natural gas and the agricultural industry.
Due to Oklahoma City’s ever-growing population, Layden said, the demand for water has skyrocketed, causing the city to look to the eastern part of the state for extra sources to take from in order to keep up with demand.
One of these new sources, Lake Sardis, has sparked quite the controversy, Layden said.
Chickasaw v. Fallin is the lawsuit in the center of the controversy, Layden said. The Chickasaw Nation is trying to attain an injunction that would prevent the state of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City from siphoning off water from Lake Sardis.
Layden explained how in 1830 the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, the first American Indian removal treaty. It gave the U.S. Government Indian land in Mississippi, as well as moved Native Americans to allocated land in Oklahoma.
The Native Americans filing lawsuits against the state of Oklahoma say the treaty gives them authority over the lake water.
Layden said the residents of Pushmataha County had seen how Oklahoma City almost drained Lake Atoka and did not maintain the recreational grounds around it, ultimately affecting the community of Atoka and its revenue. They did not want that to happen to Sardis Lake and its surrounding communities.
The people around Sardis do not want Oklahoma City ruining their lake by siphoning off the water that is a main source of tourism revenue for the community.
Another clash of interests Layden discussed was the rule created by Oklahoma that mining companies could only use a certain amount of water per acre fracking.
This rule was created after a mining company began wasting large amounts of water in the aquifer under the Arbuckle Mountains while digging up limestone.
One student who was there for an English composition assignment, Brenda Dillardschmitz, said more people should be informed about such issues.
When asked if more students should be informed on these topics and other environmental issues happening in Oklahoma, Brenda replied, “A lot of people should be more informed on a lot of things.”
Oklahoma is a state that historically has experienced low rainfall, Layden said.
“Drought is the norm,” he said. Therefore, maintaining water supplies and maintaining the pumps that provide towns with water is crucial.
R.E.A.P. grants are money given to smaller more rural communities with older out-of-date pumping systems so that they can update their water systems or simply maintain them.
Since the recent state budget cuts, Layden said, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board cannot afford to give out these grants. This leaves some small communities with deteriorating water pumps and filters that could possibly lead to health hazards.