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Gov. Kevin Stitt addresses several hundred at 40th-annual Governor's Water Conference & Research Symposium


MIDWEST CITY — “Water Means Business” is a most-appropriate title for the 40th Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference & Research Symposium, Gov. Kevin Stitt observed Wednesday.

Stitt, attending the event for the first time as the state’s top leader, told several hundred attendees on Wednesday he has heard time and again about water’s importance to Oklahoma’s economy.

He said that message was reinforced since his election, as he and his cabinet members have traveled across the state to introduce themselves to Oklahomans and to talk about some of his initiatives, including creating a cohesive brand for Oklahoma to boost the state’s tourism.

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, he noted, is leading that effort as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Tourism and Branding.

“Oklahomans loudly spoke about the state’s water resources — our lakes and all of its streams — all the assets we have around water that are so important for us to brand and market as a state,” Stitt said.

“When you think about agriculture, energy, tourism, wildlife, manufacturing and our military, water is so important for our economy. Simply put, we need all of our water resources to thrive as a state."

He also said his administration actively is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to boost infrastructure aimed to cut down on flooding problems like those experienced in eastern Oklahoma earlier this year.

Plus, he thanked the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, a co-host of the conference, for work it is doing on the state’s Water 2060 plan.

“The recycling of water is central to preserving our state’s most precious resource,” he noted.

Stitt’s remarks preceded presentations of Water Pioneer Awards to three Oklahomans who have worked hard to protect the resource.

Robert L. Stallings, chairman of the water resources board, presented this year’s awards to Tom Buchanan, Ann Keeley and Arnold Miller.

Buchanan is a longtime Jackson County farmer who is a former water resources board member, a former president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and general manager of the 47,000-acre Lugert-Altus irrigation district, which includes 30 miles of main canals and 300 miles of smaller ones that connect a water supply to each area farm.

Under Buchanan’s leadership, the district installed recovery pits to reuse water, lined ditches and subsurface drip irrigation, automated its canals and installed real-time measuring systems to control water flow, realizing a 30% savings in water use.

Keeley is a research microbiologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Robert S. Kerr Research Center in Ada.

Recently, Keeley was named director of the agency’s Groundwater Characterization and Remediation Division.

Keeley has extensively researched groundwater contamination sources and remediation methods, and Sullivan noted her numerous publications and scientific findings are well-respected among water scientists around the world.

She also has promoted cooperative research efforts between the EPA and Chickasaw Nation, the state of Oklahoma and East Central University.

Miller is a water consultant who served Weatherford as superintendent of its water department for 48 years until his 2008 retirement, and, through that role, provided instrumental services to the community to help it grow both itself and Southwestern Oklahoma State University during that time.

Stallings noted that Miller is known by all for going above and beyond to ensure the safety and integrity of Weatherford’s water supply, and had been recognized by multiple organizations for his leadership in water and sewer system planning and management, as well as for his efforts to improve the health and well-being of his employees and the citizens of Weatherford.

“These individuals have had a significant amount of influence in how Oklahoma manages its water resources, and we owe them all a debt of gratitude for their foresight and perseverance,” Stallings said.

Jack Money

Jack Money has worked for The Oklahoman for more than 20 years. During that time, he has worked for the paper’s city, state, metro and business news desks, including serving for a while as an assistant city editor. Money has won state and regional... Read more ›