August 22nd of 2019 was a day that should be noted in Oklahoma history as the first Strategic Alliance Agreement was formally signed between the Oklahoma State Secretary of Energy and Environment, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, and the Oklahoma Rural Water Association, and was ratified by the Governor of Oklahoma Kevin Stitt.
The formal signing took place at the Oklahoma Rural Water Association’s fall conference at Sequoyah State Park’s Western Hills Lodge. The alliance agreement commits the organizations to work together to help meet the missions of the organizations and to improve the sustainability of Oklahoma rural and small community water and wastewater systems.
Some of Oklahoma’s water and wastewater infrastructure systems exceed one hundred years old, and many of the systems are not prepared for the business challenges of the twenty-first century. Without enough potable clean water and wastewater system capacity the economic development of many Oklahoma communities will be a risk.
“We’re in a different time and era than when most rural water and wastewater systems were set up.” Said Jimmy E. Seago, Deputy CEO of Oklahoma Rural Water Association. “At that time, our biggest challenges were meeting the needs of economic growth and development. Today, the biggest challenge is changing our mindset of how we operate and do business.”
Water system managers and boards will need to see themselves not as operating a mom-and-pop non-profit, but as professionals whose responsibilities include public health, customer service, best business practices, education, public relations, technology and much more. And, the signing of this agreement will ensure they have the resources available to them to meet those needs.
No one organization or agency has all the resources to address the water and wastewater system sustainability planning that will be vital to the success of meeting and exceeding Oklahoma’s water needs into the next century. In 2018 the Oklahoma Rural Water Association took national honors for providing membership services. The new strategic alliance is an extension of that effort.
By working together as a team all the members of this strategic alliance have the resources required to complete the task. And a daunting task it will be as there are over 1,300 water systems in the state that need long range sustainability planning.
“This is good government at work for the people of Oklahoma.” Said Scott Thompson, Executive Director of Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
It will elevate the rural water and wastewater systems of Oklahoma to a best-in-class business model. This will move Oklahoma into the top five in the nation on providing long range value for its citizens through water and wastewater services.
Strategic alliances are built on relationships between people, and this alliance will develop trust and teamwork between the organizations and all of Oklahoma.