The OWRB’s bathymetric mapping program utilizes GIS and related technology to provide accurate determinations of the current storage capacities in the state’s reservoirs. Geographic Positioning System (GPS) and acoustic depth sounding instruments are incorporated into hydrographic survey vessels. Contour maps are then derived from the collected data points and digital lake bottom surface models. Obtaining accurate storage volumes for lakes is an integral tool for water resources managers as well as state and federal partners, for water quality assessments, TMDL development, dam breach analysis, watershed monitoring and management, determining the amount of water a lake can yield in the driest of times (reliable yield), water rights availability analysis, and monitoring sedimentation rates.
Cooperative Technical Partnerships
The OWRB partners with Oklahoma municipalities and state and federal agencies and organizations to collect data and conduct scientific studies concerning water quality and quantity.
The OWRB partners with the US Geological Survey (USGS) to manage Oklahoma's Cooperative Stream Gaging Program for the development of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, compliance with four federal interstate stream compact agreements, and management of local water supplies, including flood and drought planning, early warning systems, and emergency operations. The OWRB works with several other partners, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, Grand River Dam Authority, and National Weather Service, to conduct flow monitoring at additional sites.
At select Oklahoma lakes, the OWRB studies the internal loading of nutrients, a natural process that often has a significant impact on the availability of nutrients for algal growth but is not typically accounted for in lake management or TMDL scenarios in a quantifiable way. When overlain by anoxic hypolimnetic waters, lake sediments will release nutrients, resulting in increased concentrations in lake water. These nutrients are then distributed through the water column, providing opportunity for further eutrophication.
OWRB staff work cooperatively with state and local entities to provide monitoring, analysis, and solutions for repairing Oklahoma lakes facing serious impairments due to "cultural eutrophication" a condition caused by runoff from fertilizers, municipal waste, farm and feeding operation waste, and other human by-products. The OWRB is currently working with the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District at Lake Thunderbird to monitor nutrients, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll a, and continue to explore technologies for in lake management of water quality pollutants.
Since 2001, the OWRB has monitored groundwater for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) as part of its oversight of Licensed Managed Feeding Operations (LMFOs). OWRB staff collect groundwater samples from select monitoring wells and submit them to the ODAFF’s laboratory for analysis of potential contamination of groundwater, signaled through high nitrate-nitrogen concentrations, high ammonium-nitrogen concentrations, or sample analyses containing three or more fecal coliform colonies. Quarterly and annual reports of findings are submitted.
Through a partnership with the EPA, the OWRB participates in the National Rivers and Streams Assessment and the National Lake Assessment. These two nationwide water quality studies allow OWRB staff to collect data on new and emerging contaminants as well as additional data that are used for reporting on state programs, such as the Streams Probabilistic Monitoring Program.
The OWRB is a participating partner of the EPA’s NEIEN program to make enhancements to the Ambient Water Quality Monitoring System (AWQMS). AWQMS is an advanced environmental database capable of not only storing environmental data from all media, but also interacting seamlessly with the national EPA and USGS environmental databases. The projects continue to allow the system to be customized to meet the State’s evolving data management and reporting needs; ODEQ and OCC are vital partners ensuring this process is successful. These projects will allow AWQMS to function as an advanced water quality assessment and reporting tool, easing much of the time-consuming work involved in processes such as 303(d) assessments and TMDL tracking. In addition, these projects will provide the ability to automate IBI calculations, improve ATTAINS needs, streamline the water quality public portal, automate EPA mobile app data flows, improve groundwater data analysis, and improve the Secchi Dip-in for a variety of users.
The OWRB conducts probabilistic (statistical survey) monitoring on streams in cooperation with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Probabilistic monitoring provides statistically sound, unbiased information on the health of Oklahoma’s waterbodies utilizing random selection of sites. A broad spectrum of parameters are collected at each site to assess water chemistry, physical habitat, and the health of the biological communities (fish, macroinvertebrates, and algae).
OWRB staff conduct stormwater monitoring through partnerships with public entities to provide scientifically defensible assessments of parameters of interest such as turbidity, real-time stage data, and discharge measurements. Currently, the OWRB is partnering with the City of Norman in the Lake Thunderbird watershed to meet the requirements of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) report issued in 2013 by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ). OWRB data are utilized to track TMDL compliance over time and determine locations for implementing best management practices (BMPs) for improving water quality.
The Water Quality Portal is a cooperative service sponsored by the US Geological Survey, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council. It serves data collected by over 400 state, federal, tribal, and local agencies. The OWRB contributes water quality monitoring data collected from lakes, streams, and groundwater through our statewide programs and federal projects.
The OWRB is a partner agency of the Oklahoma Wetlands Technical Workgroup (OWTWG), which is led by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC). As a partner agency the OWRB develops and works on projects that further the goals of Oklahoma’s Wetland Program Plan (WPP) as well as agency goals for surface water programs.
Projects to date involve both water quality monitoring as well as updating U.S Fish and Wildlife Services National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) maps to better understand the benefits and extent of these natural resources. NWI quadrangle maps can be downloaded using the Wetlands interactive map. Studies incorporate water quality monitoring, bathymetric mapping, and habitat surveys, providing a wealth of information on the role wetlands have in nutrient cycling and protecting and sustaining water levels at other nearby waterbodies. The location, extent, and condition of wetlands is key to their important natural ability to hold water, mitigate floods, and support recharge to groundwater and baseflow in streams.
OWRB staff are working cooperatively with the EPA to study the impacts of two major Oklahoma wildfires that occurred in April of 2018. The Rhea fire and 34 Complex Fire were major events (FEMA declared natural disasters) on the Oklahoma landscape that burned across the riparian zones of the Canadian River and North Canadian River watersheds. OWRB streams monitoring staff are collecting and analyzing data on water quality, riparian zones, instream habitat, and the biological communities (fish and macroinvertebrates) to compare the collected data to pre-fire conditions on the two affected rivers to assess any impacts that are left behind in the wake of those two major wildfires. Wildfires can severely affect water quality and riparian zone quality, and these impacts may allow for the introduction of excess nutrients, fine sediment, and/or other contaminants that may act as stressors on the biological communities. The current study is focused on evaluating the post-fire data to see if any certain stressor or stressors can be identified that may be impacting the health of the biological communities in the Canadian and North Canadian Rivers.