EXPLAINER: Norman residents asked to conserve water to help save liquid oxygen levels for Oklahoma COVID-19 patients


NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The city of Norman is asking its water customers to conserve water, to help hospitals in and around the state get the liquid oxygen supply they need to help COVID-19 patients.

“The slower we can move the water through our treatment plant, the less liquid oxygen we need,” said Darrel Pyle, the Norman City Manager.

The city of Norman asked its customers to cut back on water consumption because liquid oxygen is in high demand, while the Delta variant rocks hospitals Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas.

The Campbell water treatment plant uses liquid oxygen to clear up the color and odor of the water before it hits the customer’s faucet.

“We run an electrical current through it and generate ozone that bubbles through surface water supply at Lake Thunderbird,” said Pyle.

However, COVID-19 patients fighting the virus from a hospital bed need that oxygen too.

“I had no idea they used oxygen to even treat at the water plant,” said Norman resident Kristi Pate. “Whatever we need to help out.”

Norman’s liquid oxygen vendor, Airgas, said its hospital customers are upping their bulk oxygen orders.

In a statement to KFOR, the company said,

“In areas facing higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations, medical oxygen usage by our existing medical customer base is seeing a two- to three-fold increase above pre-COVID volumes and is forecasted to continue increasing.”

Airgas adds it has “mobilized all available resources to meet increasingly supply needs for hospital and healthcare facilities.”

“They wouldn’t be able to ship any additional liquified oxygen our way in the near future,” said Pyle.

The city said if you are a Norman water customer, the city wants you to follow the odd-even water usage schedule based on your home address.

“That reduces the demand and helps flatten those peak demands in our water system,” said the city manager.

“You know, don’t keep the water running. If it helps hospitals, why not do it?” said Josh Ashton, who lives in the community. “It’s such an easy thing.”

Pyle said the water will still be clean because the city also uses chlorine to kill bacteria in water.

“If anyone notices any color or odor coming out of the tap, there is no health or safety issue,” he said.

Norman’s city manager said he thinks the odd-even schedule should last through September.

The city hopes that will be enough time for the supply chain to beef back up.

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