Even though there are states on the east and west coasts that border the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, Oklahoma boasts the most miles of shoreline of any state in the nation. Despite being landlocked and in the center of the country, we still have a navigation system that makes international trade possible via our waterways.

Our numerous lakes that serve as both water supplies and tourism and recreation attractions, the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System-these didn't exist when Oklahoma first became a state in 1907.

However with imagination, hard work and dedication, these have all come from just an idea on paper to being a vital part of Oklahoma's economy and our identity as a state.

As we've seen in states in the western parts of the country, never before has the value of abundant, quality water been more important.

This fact has certainly been brought to the forefront as a record drought has dried up ponds and streams and raised serious concerns about lakes and other waterways.

No community can survive much less thrive, unless

the people have access to quality water. It is just as true in our rural areas. Agriculture cannot be sustained without it. That's why it is easy to see that any longterm plans to boost Oklahoma's economy must include comprehensive planning on water use during the 21stcentury.

This past week a new joint legislative committee on water was announced. It includes members of the House and Senate, representatives of both political parties, and members who come from every part of the state. For the next several weeks, this committee will be undertaking a mammoth responsibility, reviewing all existing water laws in Oklahoma and exploring current and long-term infrastructure needs for drinking water as well as wastewater.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has been working with members of private sector for some time now developing a comprehensive water plan for our state. That plan will be presented to the Legislature in October and will be used as an important guide for committee members who are studying water in Oklahoma.

The creation of lakes, the navigation system along the Arkansas River and the rural water districts were part of our overall water policy in the 20th century. Now it is time to lay the foundation for Oklahoma's water policy for the 21st century.

Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator Charles Wyrick at the State Capitol, Room 521, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5561.