Wichita water advisory panel to make final recommendations to City Council

The city’s advisory committee on how to cope with a projected water shortage will meet to finalize its recommendations to the Wichita City Council on Wednesday.

It will meet at 9:30 a.m. in City Hall’s 10th-floor large conference room.

The group’s recommendations are tentatively set to go to the council on June 4, along with the city’s internal water conservation measures, said Ben Nelson, strategic services manager for the city’s public works department, in an e-mail.

“A series of public engagement opportunities yielded a substant ial amount of input that our advisory committee will consider,” he said. “It is anticipated that they will make a recommendation to the city council based on that information.”

City officials said in February that Cheney Lake – source of about 60 percent of Wichita’s water – could cease supplying water in August 2015 if the drought continues. Officials now are recalculating those estimates because of recent rains, including between an inch to two inches on Sunday.

Steps the city could take include measures to decrease water demand or increase the water supply. Options include:

• A public relations campaign to ask residents to voluntarily reduce water use. This is projected to extend the city’s water supply by about three weeks.

• Increasing rates to reduce outdoor watering, such as watering lawns and filling swimming pools, by 50 percent. Heavy water users could see rate increases of 113 percent. This could extend the city’s water supply by seven months.

• Eliminating outdoor water use in Wichita by pushing rates even higher. Big users could see rate increases of almost 250 percent – large enough to potentially run major commercial users, like golf courses and greenhouses, out of business. This could extend the city’s water supply by 21 months.

• Spending $5 million to modify the wells in the Equus Beds to pump more water from the aquifer. This would extend the city’s water supply by 22 months.

Some council members are also considering a plan to buy water from El Dorado Lake and pipe it to Wichita, although the availability of that water and the costs to bring it to Wichita haven’t been set.

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