Recent development patterns and stormwater management practices, illegal dumping, dependence on cars and trucks for transportation, and other factors, are reducing overall air quality, increasing ground-level ozone concentrations, degrading our streams and lakes, and reducing the tree canopy and natural habitat within the city.
Using resources efficiently and maintaining balance between the principles of growth and environmental conservation are problems for most American cities, but Oklahoma City faces some unusual challenges that affect our future. According to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board 2013 Beneficial Use Monitoring Program reports, about 70% of our major lakes and streams fail to meet water quality standards. In addition, according to the 2014 Central Oklahoma (Garber-Wellington) Aquifer Study (USGS), the depth of the water table has increased during the last thirty years, meaning our water sources are diminishing. Finally, according to the Utilities Department, untreated wastewater is occasionally discharged into the Oklahoma River during peak storm events. These facts are especially significant for a city that prides itself on the value of its key water resources.
Maintaining air quality is an equal challenge. According to the Association of Central Oklahoma Government’s air quality monitoring program, transportation accounts for an unusually high percentage of air pollution in Oklahoma City—64% of greenhouse gas emissions—and the preponderance of ozone, a transportation-related pollutant, is the single largest detractor to the city’s air quality. Finally, human activity has a major effect on both environment and climate, removing 60% of the area’s forest since 1871 (according to the 2009 Oklahoma City Native Tree Inventory) and producing a city-wide heat island. Environmental quality affects many other important community issues, including health and wellness, economic diversity, and city quality.