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Celebrating a Water Management Visionary: Duane Smith's 2023 Oklahoma Water Pioneer Award

In the field of water management and sustainability, heroes often emerge from behind the scenes to make a significant impact. Such is the case with Duane Smith, Director of the Oka' Institute at East Central University, who has recently been bestowed with the prestigious 2023 Oklahoma Water Pioneer Award. This honor, presented at the Governor's Water Conference and Research Symposium in Norman, underscores his exceptional dedication to Oklahoma's water resources.

The Oklahoma Water Pioneer Award, inaugurated in 1985 and presented by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board on behalf of Governor Kevin Stitt, is a recognition of professionals who have significantly influenced the state's water policy, planning, and sustainability. This accolade is a testament to Smith's untiring efforts and innovative strategies in the realm of water resource management.

Smith's career, spanning over four decades, is a chronicle of influential work in water policy and management, not just within Oklahoma but also on an international scale. His roles have included critical positions with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, where his contributions have notably shaped the state's Comprehensive Water Plan. Under Smith's guidance, initiatives like the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer protection and the establishment of comprehensive water quality monitoring programs have become landmarks in Oklahoma's water management history.

At the Oka' Institute, Smith continues to drive forward water sustainability goals. His work encompasses a broad spectrum, from water planning and sustainable community development to water research and land stewardship. His recent collaboration with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations of Oklahoma, leading to a landmark water agreement, showcases his commitment to collaborative water management solutions.

As we celebrate Smith’s remarkable achievements, we are reminded of the importance of dedication and vision in the stewardship of our natural resources. His journey and contributions are not just a source of pride for us at the Oka' Institute but also serve as an inspiration for anyone committed to the cause of water conservation and management.

We encourage you to read the full press release published by ECU news about Duane Smith’s accomplishments and the 2023 Oklahoma Water Pioneer Award, The press release offers detailed insights into Smith's career, his contributions to water management in Oklahoma and beyond, and further information about the award.

Oka' Team with Director Duane Smith's Water Pioneer Award
Oka' Director Duane Smith, ECU President Wendell Godwin, and Oka' Team Govender's Water Conference 2023

For more insights into Smith's work or to learn more about our initiatives at the Oka' Institute, we invite you to contact us at (580) 559-5151 or visit our website at


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