Cameron graduates


Public Policy Forum VI

A Limitless One Percent?: Framing Water Politics for a 21st-Century Oklahoma

What is the issue?

Water covers more than seventy percent of our planet. But only 1 percent --stored in underground aquifers; flowing in rivers and streams; teeming in fresh-water lakes-- is available to support human life. The significance of fresh water is multifaceted. As citizens we encounter it in the context of the environment as well as through our experience of legal structures, societal expectations, and current needs. To understand water as a resource, then, the series of lectures for this forum focuses on the historical, policy, and biopolitical dimensions of water. A panel of academic and policy experts will explore the following questions:

Public Policy Forum VI - A Limitless one percent?
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1) How has water shaped society and the development of urban centers in the Southwest of the United States as compared to other parts of the world?

2) What regional, federal, and global governance structures are in place to regulate the use of water?

3) How does water shape the quality of life in terms of the sustainable availability of clean water in Oklahoma?

What is the Data?

At the conclusion of the forum several insights emerged from the presentations and the discussions that followed.  First, patterns of water usage in the Southwest (to include Oklahoma) have usually resulted from an interaction between communities and, more recently, between communities and states or centralized governing authorities.  And in the case of the indigenous peoples of Oklahoma and the surrounding region as well as the settler populations of the 19th century it was primarily communities who made decisions about water.  Secondly, the water usage regimes that arise from these interactions merge both cultural expectations as to needs and technological capacity.  Thirdly,   while the public has become increasingly involved in the making of water policy in Oklahoma and the region as evidenced in the most recent Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, notions of who that public is need to develop further.  And finally, while the statewide and regional policy frameworks are in place in Oklahoma and the surrounding region in the form of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the federal authorities, the role of international policy-making bodies is as yet unclear.  These last two conclusions suggest where you as a member of the public will have a particularly important role and it is in that spirit that we offer the presentations from the forum for your consideration.  Read through them and then, when an opportunity arises to voice your views at an upcoming election or town hall, dive in knowing that you're prepared and informed!

The History of Water Policy in Oklahoma and the Southwestern U.S.: A Comparative Look Making Water Policy in Oklahoma and the World
Sterling Evans, "Thirst of the West: Understanding Water Policy and History in Oklahoma" Tony Wohlers, "Regulating a Limited Resource: The Policy Context of Water Management"
Dan Balkwill, " 'Out of a Deep Drought': Southwest Oklahoma's Significance to Post-WWII State and National Water Policies" Justin Clardie, "Global Dimensions of Water Governance"
Kyle Arthur, "2012 Update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan and Some Policy Challenges"

How am I involved in water politics?

Given the extreme drought conditions some of parts of the country have been experiencing for years, we are all involved. And if there was any doubt about this, the record heat here in Oklahoma and the rest of the Southwestern U.S. of the past months has dispelled it.  Yet many if not most of us continue to take for granted the water we use on a daily basis.  With policy-making in this area promising to be central to the future of the country and to Oklahoma, being informed can only help as you make decisions for yourself, your family, and your community about what sort of water policies should be pursued and implemented so that all communities in Oklahoma can protect and sustain this vital resource

Do I have a role in the debate

Presentations by experts in various academic fields as well as by policy practitioners in the field of water management will provide valuable insights on how to think about water.  It is our hope, though, that by participating in the forum, you should be able to formulate your own questions and approaches to the issue so that when the time comes for you to help make choices on water policy, you will be in a position to do so.  Never doubt that your curiosity and your engagement is an important part of the mix.

The Forum in the News

This edition of the forum reached an audience in the Greater Texoma area courtesy of KSWO and anchor David Bradley:

KSWO Interview Footage

What and where is the forum?

Public Policy Forum VI will take place on October 7, 2011 in the Center for Emerging Technologies and Entrepreneurial Studies (CETES) Conference Center on the main campus of Cameron University in Lawton. The event is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. and will conclude with a panel discussion at 12:00 p.m.  A complimentary lunch will be served from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Who are the presenters and panelists?



Position Paper Title


Kyle Arthur, M.S.

Oklahoma Water Resources Board

Planning Director, Oklahoma Water Resources Board "The Politics of Oklahoma's Current Water Plan"

Dan Balkwill, M.A.

University of Oklahoma

Ph. D. Student “'Out of a Deep Drought': Southwest Oklahoma's Significance to Post-WWII State and National Water Policies”

Justin Clardie, Ph.D.

Cameron University

Assistant Professor of Political Science “The Global Dimensions of Water Governance”

Sterling Evans, Ph.D.

University of Oklahoma

Professor of History “The Thirst of the West: Understanding Water History and Policy in Oklahoma”

Tony Wohlers, Ph.D.

Cameron University

Associate Professor of Political Science and Academic Research Director “Regulating a Limited Resource: The Policy Context of Water Management”

Questions and registration

For questions and registration, please contact:

Dr. Tony Wohlers, Forum Organizer

Tel: (580) 581-2496
Fax: (580) 581-2941 


Dr. Douglas Catterall, Speaker Coordinator

Tel: (580) 581-2949
Fax: (580) 581-2941

Online Registration

Given the space available, we encourage you to register for the event in advance.


This program is funded in part by the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC) and the We People Initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed during Public Policy Forum VI do not necessarily represent those of OHC or NEH. We also thank the Cameron University Lectures and Concerts Program for partial funding of the event. We thank them all for their support and encouragement of the project.


Oklahoma Humanities Council                                      Cameron University

Art student

Flowers by the pond.