Drilling more wells will not solve the need for water in the future.
"It's getting worse and worse, and we've just got to do something for the future," Ernie Currier, the campaign chairman for a sales tax increase to fund a water pipeline from Kaw Lake, said.
Water is going away, he said.
An aquifer is a body of water underground, Currier explained.
"If we drill more wells, we may be able to produce more right now, but it's just like putting multiple straws in the same glass of water — it goes away quicker. It doesn't get us down the road like we need to be. If this were just about producing more water, say, next year, we have a simple answer: Go drill more wells. But if you're looking 50 years down the road, like we're trying to do, you would run out of water very quickly by doing that. We just can't have that. Our city has to remain viable. We have to have a secondary source," he said.
There's more demand on the aquifer from municipalities, agriculture and the oil and gas industry, City Manager Jerald Gilbert said.
The city of Enid does not own the aquifer, Currier said.
"We have rights to it through these wells that we have purchased the right to drill, and the water we buy from a landowner. But, obviously, there are many more users to the aquifer than just us," he said. "We don't own that aquifer any more than we're going to own the lake. We're just one user."
Fairview, Alva and other communities are drawing water out of these aquifers, Currier said.
Public Utilities Director Louis Mintz said there's not enough rainfall to regenerate the aquifer fast enough.
Permission from a landowner to drill a well comes with a price, water continues to become more valuable and some landowners do not want to sell water rights, Currier said.
If the proposed sales tax increase passes, the city will get water from Kaw Lake, but will continue to maintain the well fields.
Director of Engineering Chris Gdanski said the city manager and commission are supportive, and Enid has invested in the well field each year.
There will be five new wells soon, he said.
"Both (the pipeline and the well field) are part of the long term strategy for the city. We just don't believe one, the well field, is a long-term viable sole-source solution," Gilbert said.
An expansion of the Koch Fertilizer plant will be complete in 2017.
In an effort to cut how much potable water the plant was using, one of the expansion components is infrastructure to process water discharged from the city's wastewater treatment plant. Officials had previously said the change would free up drinking water for the citizens and other businesses.
On the simple level, Koch Fertilizer is going to use enough effluent water it will double the plant's capacity, with using the same amount of potable water it is using today, Gdanski said.
"Yes, they are taking some of our effluent, our gray water, but they're expanding their plant so much that that's taking care of their expansion, in approximations, of course," he said.
(Editor’s note: After publication of the article, Gilbert updated the information and said Koch will use less water than is currently being used.)