April 1, 2013

Wichita seeks residents’ ideas on dealing with the drought

Even the most dedicated optimist would recognize that Wichita’s looming water crisis is a glass-half-empty situation.

An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect address for one of the public meetings.

Even the most dedicated optimist would recognize that Wichita’s looming water crisis is a glass-half-empty situation.


With the main source of Wichita’s drinking water — Cheney Reservoir — expected to be depleted by August 2015 if drought conditions and current usage continue, the city is looking for ideas from residents and business owners about how to conserve the precious resource.

The city is hosting six meetings in the coming weeks to engage the community and solicit ideas.

City Manager Bob Layton said most people take water for granted. They turn on the faucet and don’t think about where that water came from before it filled their glass or watered their lawn or cleaned them off.

“That’s the whole purpose of this discussion,” Layton said of raising public awareness about the water supply. “We’re not only talking about where we get our water and where we get that supply but also the consequences of losing their resources. There are some really basic uses of water that would have be to be curtailed” if the drought continues and people don’t cut down on water consumption.

Layton said his neighbors watered their lawn about 45 days ago in the winter during a warm spell.

Ben Nelson, the city’s strategic services manager for public works and utilities, said Cheney Reservoir provides 60 percent of the city’s water supply.

The rest comes from underground wells.

“The reservoir is 58 percent full,” he said Monday.

The city considered the idea of punitive water rates to encourage people to use less water outdoors, but that was met with a backlash.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do now is a voluntary water conservation campaign. The people who are interested in finding out how they can use less water, we’re going to be giving them some tips,” Nelson said.

The meetings are open to everyone, and Nelson said the city wants to hear from all types of users.

“It’s important we get perspective from residential customers, but we also have businesses that use water in different ways” Nelson said.

The city also wants input from its wholesale customers, he said.

Wichita supplies water to Eastborough, Rose Hill, Benton, Kechi, Andover, Derby, Valley Center and Bentley as well as Rural Water Districts 1, 3 and 8. Wichita is a back-up source for Maize and the Chisholm Creek Utility Authority, which is made up of Bel Aire and Park City, Nelson said.

City leaders will make a short presentation at the beginning of each meeting and then will seek comments from the audience.

The meetings will be:

• 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 16, Atwater City Hall, 2755 E. 19th St.
• 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 16, Alford Branch Library, 3447 S. Meridian.
• 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 17, the Water Center, 101 E. Pawnee.
• 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 17, Wichita Fire Station No. 20, 2255 S. Greenwich.
• 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 18, Wichita Fire Station No. 21, 2110 N. 135th St. West.
• 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 18, Evergreen Recreation Center, 2700 N. Woodland.

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