The Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer has sustained much of South Central Oklahoma as a source of drinking water for approximately 150,000 Oklahomans. For generations, the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer has served as a water source for municipal and rural water districts, agricultural producers, recreational users, as well as ensuring a robust regional economy.
In the first week of 2002, 661 concerned citizens gathered in Tishomingo, the historical capital of the Chickasaw Nation, and signed a petition addressed to Oklahoma elected officials urging the protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer. These citizens formed the nucleus of The Citizens for the Protection of Johnson County Water. Within the first year, as thousands of interested persons throughout Oklahoma and other states came together in response to threats to the aquifer, the name of the organization was changed to The Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (CPASA).
What initially brought the region together was the proposed sale and transfer of vast quantities of groundwater from the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer to Central Oklahoma. It was feared that pumping such a large amount of water would dry up existing groundwater wells, as well as springs and streams emanating from the Aquifer. Oklahoma water law in effect at the time allowed for removal of the water with no consideration of the fact that the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer is the sole source of sustainable water supply for the region. CPASA held the position that the law was wrong and needed to be changed.
Through the combined efforts of area residents, business owners, organizations such as the Arbuckle Master Conservancy District, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, and other stakeholders, area legislators waged a campaign at the State Capitol to change the law. Senate Bill 288 passed the Oklahoma Legislature in 2003 amid much controversy with CPASA and other supporters successfully arguing that water, while crucial to life itself, was also vital to future economic growth in the region and should be managed sustainably.
Senate Bill 288, which applies only to the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer, acknowledged for the first time in Oklahoma water law, the interconnection between groundwater and surface water.
The passage of Senate Bill 288 did not eliminate all threats to our region; indeed, there are still issues that threaten the sustainability of the Aquifer. However, CPASA continues to be actively engaged in fighting for a sustainable water management so as to support a vibrant economy and positive quality of life in South Central Oklahoma for generations to come.