Public meetings on Wichita’s water supply are gathering ideas for battling drought

04/16/2013 10:12 AM

08/06/2014 1:00 AM

Ideas ranging from encouraging the use of more efficient toilets to building new reservoirs flowed during a public meeting Tuesday aimed at finding solutions to Wichita’s battle with drought.

The meeting at Atwater City Hall, 2755 E. 19th St., drew about 20 people, including City Council members Lavonta Williams, Jeff Blubaugh and Janet Miller.

It was the first of six meetings the city is holding this week to gather ideas from the public on how the city may stretch its water supply. City officials have said that Cheney Reservoir, which supplies about 60 percent of the city’s water, will be unable to provide drinking water by August 2015 if the drought continues.

Ben Nelson, of the city’s department of public works and utilities, told the audience that the average home uses 82,000 gallons of water per year and would have to reduce that usage considerably if that happens.

City officials are considering rate increases for those who use more water, plus various conservation efforts.

Among the more popular ideas expressed at the meeting:

Implement water restrictions right away.

Impose the same restrictions on businesses as on residences.

Initiate restrictions on private well water use even though private wells don’t draw from the sources of the city’s water.

Encourage more efficient appliances and toilets through rebates.

Install rain sensors and smart controls on irrigation systems.

Educate the public on the need to conserve water.

Other suggestions included using water from El Dorado Lake, running pipelines from other reservoirs to Wichita, and easing regulations on capturing rainwater.

Smart controllers could make irrigation systems 30 percent more efficient, said Lonny Wright, a Wichita plumber. They could be required on new systems and installed for a reward on existing systems.

One man suggested dredging Cheney reservoir.

“Perhaps we should think ahead and if it does go dry, then we clean it out so it’ll store more water the next time we have some rain,” said Donald Hogg of Wichita. “And everybody go to church and pray a little bit harder.”

Several people questioned whether water rates would go up if use declined. Nelson said conservation could have an impact on rates depending on how much the use goes down.

“You have to weigh the cost of rates versus the cost of water, especially in terms of the drought, potentially not having water after August 2015,” he said. “There’s not a clear answer right now.”

The city provided information on ways to cut back on water use to those who attended the meeting, as well as forms for them to provide feedback about their concerns and ideas.

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