Water Quality in Northeast Oklahoma


There are many reasons why a person might be interested in water quality: fishing, swimming, boating, wading, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, drinking water, and just enjoying a pleasant view. We Oklahomans treasure our aquatic natural resources. EPA and Oklahoma use categories in the state’s water quality standards to protect these types of uses. Each of the “Beneficial Use” categories has its own standards of protection. For example, for fisheries protection (called the Fish and Wildlife Propagation beneficial use) there are certain numerical criteria (water quality standards) that must be maintained. There are also narrative criteria that set a general standard of protection goal.

There are also "high quality" waters in Northeast Oklahoma that deserve a higher level of protection. For a more thorough discussion of the state’s water quality standards, visit the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) website.

There are many Oklahoma streams and lakes that have been designated as impaired (that is, not meeting one or more of their beneficial uses). The designation is done according to a specific type of study using data of high quality. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) must report updates of the impairment list biennially to EPA. This list is often referred to as the 303(d) List of impaired waterbodies.  Impaired waterbodies are designated as Category 5 in ODEQ’s integrated water quality assessment report. Visit the ODEQ integrated report website to obtain information about the latest EPA approved 303(d) list.

Any waterbody remaining on the Category 5 list will eventually have a special type of pollutant load study called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The TMDL defines all point source loads (such as wastewater treatment plants) and all non-point source loads (such as agricultural activities) to determine the maximum amount of pollutant loads that can be added from all sources yet will still maintain water quality.  Municipal stormwater permittees are considered point sources in a TMDL and are included in the overall pollutant load calculations.

In years past, most load studies focused on point sources, and most of these dealt with oxygen-demanding substances. However, within the past few years the emphasis has shifted to pollutants associated with non-point sources, such as turbidity, dissolved solids, nutrients and bacteria. The ODEQ water quality website provides a great deal of information about the state’s water quality and regulatory program to assess and improve our natural resources.

Federal and State environmental agencies, along with regional and local entities, can help you locate water quality information for your stream or lake. Contact INCOG at 918.584.7526 if you need assistance with your search.  The GCSA web page on Internet Resources also has numerous important links to data and information.