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Wichita geologist sees water issues relating to the Equus Beds aquifer

The following was written by local geologist Karma Mason, who also serves on the State Water Board. What are the implications of moving forward with a rushed, poor plan? Mason explains what Wichita voters should consider as they vote in the proposed one cent per dollar sales tax. $250 million of the projected $400 million five-year sales tax is earmarked for a new water supply.

Over the past year, the city of Wichita has evaluated potential new water supply options. Wichita recently revealed enhancement of the aquifer storage and recovery project (ASR) as the preferred plan to improve the water supply. ASR enhancement may very well prove to be a viable option, but there are significant uncertainties to consider as well. These uncertainties relate to the Equus Beds aquifer, specifically its level, how it is used, how state regulations affect that use, and how the aquifer would be used in case of drought.

A current state-level requirement prohibits the city from using any ASR-stored water should the Equus Beds aquifer become stressed during a drought. Wichita has already spent more than $200 million on the ASR, and it has yet to significantly affect the amount of water stored in the Equus Beds aquifer.

Furthermore, in a drought scenario (i.e., dust bowl), the Equus Beds aquifer will be over-utilized, resulting in accelerating the migration of the chloride plume to city supply wells. This would likely result in additional costs, beyond the proposed $250 million, to treat the chloride-containing water.

However, there have been recent discussions at the state level about working with irrigation users to lease their water rights to the city in a drought scenario, or even establishing a water bank for the area. These options could result in providing needed water in a dust bowl scenario at a much-reduced cost.

On top of all this, city officials say that, if existing state guidelines for drought planning are followed, Wichita already has adequate water for over 20 years.

The Wichita community has an opportunity to look at water needs in the long-term, and it is lucky that the current supply is adequate enough to allow for time and consideration in solving these issues.

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Bob Weeks

Bob Weeks is a blogger for liberty and economic freedom in Kansas: http://wichitaliberty.org. Find him onTwitter: @bob_weeks

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Categories: Environment, Policy, Regulation


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