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. Recently, the city revealed enhancement of the aquifer storage and recovery project (ASR) as the preferred new supply. Although ASR enhancement may ultimately prove a viable option, there are still significant uncertainties.
First, a current state-level requirement prohibits the city from using any ASR-stored water should the Equus Beds become stressed during a drought.
Second, we have 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.
Third, in a drought scenario (i.e., dust bowl), the Equus Beds will be over-utilized, resulting in accelerating the migration of the chloride plume to city supply wells. This likely will result in additional costs, beyond the proposed $250 million, to treat the chloride-containing water.
Fourth, there have been recent discussions at the state level about working with irrigators 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.
Finally, city representatives state that when using existing state guidelines for drought planning, Wichita already has adequate water for another 20-plus years.
Our community has an opportunity to work together to solve its long-term water needs. Fortunately, our current supply is adequate to allow more time for full evaluation of our options.