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March 23, 2014

Wichita City Council to look at water supply options

The Wichita City Council on April 8 will discuss a series of options for a long-term water supply, City Manager Robert Layton said Friday.

The Wichita City Council on April 8 will discuss a series of options for a long-term water supply, City Manager Robert Layton said Friday.

Initially, plans called for a Tuesday workshop on results of the city’s water conservation efforts, followed by a late April workshop on options for the long-term water supply.

Council members are weighing a wide variety of options, from completing the city’s Equus Beds recharge project northwest of Wichita to reusing water from the sewage treatment plant.

The Equus Beds groundwater aquifer is being drained by the city of Wichita and other municipal and agricultural users faster than the $240 million recharge project would be able to replenish it even if completed. So City Council members are considering where the costly project fits into the long-term water supply it was supposed to provide.

The recharge project takes water out of the Little Arkansas River, treats it to remove farm chemicals and other pollutants and stores it in the aquifer for later use. The project is only partially finished.

One question is whether to finish the aquifer project, involving Phases 3 and 4, which some council members say could cost $300 million, potentially driving the total tab to more than a half-billion dollars.

Two options have far more traction at City Hall: reusing water from the sewage treatment plant or buying raw water from El Dorado Lake. But the price tag for those two is at least $150 million each, according to city officials.

Financing a new water supply is the biggest reason council members might ask voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax hike, perhaps as early as November.

And currently, the state of Kansas doesn’t have any regulations in place for turning treated water from sewage treatment plants into drinking water.

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