Butler County Times Gazette
  • City staff discuss water issue

  • The city of El Dorado will likely not be selling water to Wichita after the Wichita city staff decided to go another direction for their water needs.
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  • The city of El Dorado will likely not be selling water to Wichita after the Wichita city staff decided to go another direction for their water needs.
    "We have treated this discussion with Wichita just like we treat any economic development," said City Manager Herb Llewellyn.
    That meant they did not say much about it, rather leaving it up to Wichita to announce any information when they were ready.
    Llewellyn said that had caused some anxiety in the community with people wanting to know what was going on with it, and now they want to inform people about the process they went through.
    "It was just us discussing the potential to meet a need in Wichita," he said. "In my mind we were in very preliminary discussions."
    He said when you have meetings with two cities and no elected officials are part of it, those are preliminary discussions.
    "Wichita staff recommended doing another phase of ASR, so we thought it was time to talk about this journey we have been on," Llewellyn said.
    Llewellyn said Cheney Lake has the same quantity of water as El Dorado, yet there are days when Wichita takes up to 100 million gallons out, with them routinely taking 40 to 60 MGD.
    "It made us start asking questions," he said.
    Kurt Bookout, public utilities director, reviewed the process, saying the community has known they have been working on researching and analyzing the city's water supply.
    "We wanted to first have a good understanding of what the yield is for that resource," Bookout said.
    Bookout said when they first started thinking about using the lake as a regional water supply, the set up a meeting with Mike Hayden, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, who talked to Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer suggesting they talk to El Dorado about water. They also met with Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office, and staff hydrologist Andy Ensz.
    Bookout said the KWO indicated they had long considered El Dorado Lake as an important regional water supply and they volunteered to have their hydrologist run a computer modeling of the reservoir to determine the true yield potential.
    That showed the lake could produce 25 million gallons a day (MGD) 80 percent of the time, while continuing to supply current customers, without significantly dropping lake levels. The city then hired Black and Veatch to do an independent study and their results confirmed those numbers.
    "We modeled two droughts of record, back to back," Bookout said.
    Then in early 2011, Wichita State University's Hugo Wall School had its masters in public administration class research the topic "Thinking and Acting Regionally on Water Supply," which included El Dorado Lake. At the end, the consensus of the group recommended El Dorado as the most cost effective and secure path to provide Wichita with drought protection.
    Page 2 of 3 - Bookout said the group warned "neglecting water supply needs could affect the low cost of living for the region."
    The city then entered into negotiations with Wichita, having provided them with information for several years now.
    "We have been communicating to Wichita our ability to serve them," he said.
    Last year, inquiries included taking up to 30 MGD, although they more recently expressed interest in 10 MGD.
    Bookout said Wichita had outlined three options for water.
    The first was treated water from El Dorado for a 46-year cost of $576,000,000, with construction costs of $86,000,000. The next option was El Dorado raw water for a cost of $415,000,000 and construction costs of $87,000,000. The third was ASR improvements, including building a small 50-acre reservoir to store water during a flood event and processed later, for a cost of $471,000,000 and construction costs of $200,000,000. Bookout said the reservoir would hold about 190 million gallons of water and based on that quantity of stored water, would only provide an additional six or seven days worth of water per flood event, assuming no loss due to percolation or evaporation.
    El Dorado added a fourth option of treated water from Wichita with ASR improvements for a cost of $586,000,000 and construction costs of $200,000,000.
    "If they were going to compare the long-term costs of treated water from El Dorado to ASR improvements, then the costs to pump that water back out of the Equus Beds aquifer and run through Wichita's main treatment plant needed to be added to have an apples to apples comparison," Bookout said.
    He pointed out treated water from El Dorado is $10,000,000 cheaper and the raw water option is $56,000,000 cheaper.
    He also talked about their Equus beds recharge project and said based on USGS (http://ks.water.usgs.gov/water-recharge) recharge records, even in a wet year it only produced 1 MGD or 366 MG/year, which was about 1/60th of a Wichita average day of water use. Bookout said Wichita claims ASR is producing half of what it was supposed to produce, but if the facts are looked at, it's only about 1/10th of the production goal of 10 MGD or 11,000 acre-feet.
    Bookout said in the last seven years, according to USGS records, ASR has recharged 1.524 billion gallons, although he said Alan King is quoted as saying it is generating 1.8 billion gallons per year.
    "Now granted, much of the rain in 2013 came in July and August," he said. "But if we look at ASR production in those months, with August being the all-time peak month for ASR, it only produced 6.4 MGD and ASR's rated capacity is 30 MGD.
    "You know, it sounds like we're being self-serving over here in El Dorado, but as an outsider observer of ASR for the last 20 years, I have some real fears that Wichita is going to double down on a project that has clearly demonstrated it has not done what it was supposed to do. I have concerns that Wichita is reinvesting in a concept that in my mind is 'pretend water.' Not only that, but someone is going to have to explain to me how building a 50-acre pond for ASR to run an extra six days per flood event is going to prevent Wichita from running out of water in drought of record, which may last for eight years."
    Page 3 of 3 - "One of the things we've seen is their staff has a tendency to switch units," Llewellyn said.
    Bookout explained they will switch from talking about gallons to acre-feet, which is confusing to people.
    He also pointed out center pivot irrigators have access and Water Rights to the water in the Equus Beds and questioned how Wichita would stop them from using the water recharged and stored by the ASR plant, especially under drought conditions.
    "I just hope they know what they are doing because El Dorado water is not going to get any cheaper and it may take several years to get it to Wichita once Wichita decides whatever they are doing isn't working," Bookout said.
    With Wichita off of the table for now, the city of El Dorado is looking at other potential new customers.
    "We had had discussion and we will have more in earnest," Llewellyn said of other entities to which they can sell water. "With the region growing, there is more and more demand. It is a water resource for the region."
     
    Julie Clements can be reached at jclements@butlercountytimesgazette.com.

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