The El Dorado City Commission took a look back at the history of water in El Dorado, as well as the current lake debt and payment plan during a special meeting this week.

The El Dorado City Commission took a look back at the history of water in El Dorado, as well as the current lake debt and payment plan during a special meeting this week.

Public Utilities Director Kurt Bookout reviewed the information with the commission.

The history he presented started in 1883 when there were only about 2,000 people in El Dorado. It also was a time waterborne diseases were common. He said the first reference of a water system through an ordinance was made in 1883. The primary source of water were wells near the plant and the water was dumped into a 20-foot diameter reservoir.

"Until 1905, the water system was a private venture under contract to the city," he continued. "Ordinance No. 459 called for the issuance of bonds to purchase the water system back."

The owners were paid $19,000 for the water system and many improvements were made, including a new 125,000-gallon water tower. The city also established flat rates. Then in 1910, water meters were installed.

In 1917, $60,000 in bonds were approved for improvements, then another $20,000 in bonds was issued in 1915 to improve the system due to the oil boom and a water shortage. In May 1918, $60,000 more in bonds was passed for more water lines.

"In 1918, the report mentions Black and Veatch Engineers of Kansas City," Bookout continued. That also is the company the city has worked with in recent years to study the lake.

"By 1921, chloride levels in the Walnut River had risen to over 4,000 ppm," he said. "Thirty ppm was normal."

Black and Veatch determined Stachel Creek was the best location for a dam. What was proposed would cover 315 acres and cost $300,000.

Instead, the city leaders chose another area, but the bonds failed to pass.

In 1924-25, dry years prompted the new city manager to ask Black and Veatch to review the study and they again recommended Satchel Creek.

"In 1933, the bond issue for the new water plant failed to pass," Bookout said.

Then in 1936, a $64,000 grant was received and they built the treatment plant that is there today. It also was used for a water tower on Sixth Avenue. Then in 1939, $8,000 was spent on a dam, although it is not the one that exists today.

From 1943 to 1950, water use increased 260 percent in El Dorado.

Black and Veatch had studied the possibility of building a dam on Harrison Creek for Lake Bluestem. The cost was estimated to be $1.5 million, and the refineries agreed to pay a portion of the project cost.

"The lake would cover 870 acres and hold 3.5 billion gallons," he continued. "We were building a lake right in the middle of the drought."

Bookout went on to talk about the current water study by Black and Veatch. He said the city of Wichita criticized the study, saying they did not use the drought of record for the modeling, claiming the drought of the 1930s was the drought of record.

"We chose to use a drought that would occur every 50 years instead of one that would occur every 100 years," Bookout explained. "The drought of the 50s was almost double the severity in lack of precipitation when comparing the 30s drought and 50s drought. Wichita has since agreed the drought of the 50s was the drought of record."

There was a 10.5 inch deficit in the drought of the 1950s.

In 1953, the city passed a stringent conservation ordinance and secured 1.5 million gallons a day from the city of Wichita through the Kanab pipeline.

"In June 1954, the drought was not letting up and water supplies continue to dwindle," Bookout said.

He said several entities built a 32-mile pipe to Mulvane, with El Dorado's share of the cost being $338,000. That bond issue carried 3,266 to 104. Bids were taken in July 1953 and they began to construct the pipeline in August, with it being complete on Sept. 15.

"It was finished just in time," Bookout said. "By the time of completion, El Dorado's water supplies had dwindled down to a few days. This is the drought, when I went to the Senior Center and talked about selling water, this is what they remembered."

El Dorado also was planning a channel project.

"The El Dorado water plant was once on a peninsula, sandwiched between the east and west branches of the Walnut River," Bookout explained. "In 1970, HUD informed the city it would receive a grant for $438,500 alone with $571,500 of city funds used to expand the water plant. This was a major expansion."

The also were water distribution improvements.

In 1973, a study of the distribution system was completed and Bookout said there were some major improvements from then on.

Bookout moved on to the present El Dorado Lake.

"The big reservoir that we have today was a long-time coming," Bookout said. "It was first proposed in 1944 as a solution to flood problems. In 1948, the Corps of Engineers decided it wasn't economically justified."

He said in 1964, congress approved the construction of the reservoir.

The groundbreaking ceremonies were held Sept. 12, 1973 and the closing ceremonies were held on June 29, 1981.

"The completion of the lake also came in the middle of a drought," Bookout said.

The lake covers 8,000 acres of conservation pool and 10,700 acres at flood control pool. It holds 50 billion gallons.

Because of the drought, in 1981, the refinery was in danger of shutting down due to lack of water and in October of that year, the decision was made to bring Mulvane water back, but just two days before they started pumping water from Mulvane, the rains came and filled El Dorado Lake.

El Dorado now has a contract with the United States for water storage space between 1,296 and 1,339 elevation, which is about 142,800 acre feet. Two pipes carry water from the lake to the treatment plant, one 36 inches and the other 24 inches.

Bookout said they recently had a repair to the 24-inch pipe, which was built in 1926, and they were amazed the line looked like it was in perfect condition.

"It looked like it was put in 10 years ago," he said. "That's a testament to water quality too."

Bookout said over the last 36 years, the water level in the lake has fluctuated between the top of conservation pool, 1,339 feet, and 1,334, only dropping six feet one time.

"We have three gates that we can draw water from," he said. "The first is 12 feet down, then 30 feet and then 49 feet down from the top of conservation pool. Basically, we have about 50 feet of water we can draw from."

The storage space in area one is 39,793 acre feet, area two is 11,666 acre feet and area three is 19,254 acre feet.

The city has currently activated about 70,715 acre feet of that space.

The cost of constructing the lake was $103 million. They don't owe anything on space one and are currently paying on spaces two and three. The future storage space totals 72,087 acre feet, which has not been activated yet.

"The Corps provided 6.2 mgd in exchange for old Lake El Dorado and Bluestem," Bookout explained.

The city also paid for 100 percent of the structure equipment to give them the water.

The city activated storage area two in 1991 and purchased an additional 3 mgd in 1996.

"In trade for the old lakes, we got roughly 28 percent of the debt forgiven," Bookout said.

The city also pays about 50 percent of the maintenance of the dam.

Looking at the storage spaces, space two was about $3 million, so the annual payment for that is $125,535. Then space three was $7.4 million, which is an annual payment of $315,817. The future storage space is worth $18,500,024.

The total cost of the storage space in 1981 was roughly $40 million in prinipal. The debt today continues to be around $40 million because of the compounded interest on the debt, including the debt for the area not activated yet.

"From the beginning, the commission has always been told about a balloon payment due in 2081," said City Manager Herb Llewellyn. "If we never activate any more storage, in 2081 we would have a payment of around $30 million."

He said they have been putting money in the bank every year and have a schedule of when they will get that set aside.

"Every time we activate storage we are peeling off some of that and it is set up to be a 50-year amortization," he said. "I would be really surprised if we have a balloon payment in 2081. I think we will activate it before that."

Bookout went on to talk about the treatment capacity.

The current rate of capacity is 8.5 mgd.

"We could do 10 mgd, but there is a bottleneck getting that much water into the distribution system," Bookout said.

Looking at raw water sales/usage, the refinery purchases 1.3 to 1.6 billion gallons a year. In addition, Prairie Trails uses 24 to 35 million gallons a year. Then Augusta is purchasing 575 million gallons per year.

Outside of El Dorado, treated water is sold to rural water districts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7; wholesale district 8; Potwin; and Whitewater.

"The current sales outside the city is 52 percent of all treated water sales," Bookout said.

The largest treated customers are Rural Water District 5, then RWD 6, the El Dorado Correctional Facility, Butler wholesale district 8, RWD 2, Frontier Refinery, Potwin and Whitewater.

Bookout went on to compare El Dorado and Cheney lakes.

He said the lakes are similar in size as far as area it covers, but the difference is El Dorado Lake is much deeper due to silt in Cheney Lake.

"The other part is our water shed covers 252 square miles," Bookout explained. "About 90 to 95 percent is native tall grass prairie. About 90 percent of Cheney's water shed is row crops, which are much more erodible."

Looking at future use of the water, Bookout said they asked the Kansas Water Office to do some modeling of El Dorado Lake. They did a model based on the current year being 2050 and the demand was 12.4, although it is only about 10. They looked at the excess water which could be sold when the elevation is about 1,334 feet, which is five feet down.

"There have only been bout a dozen times in the last 60 years when we could not meet a 30 to 40 mgd demand," he said. "Now we are only using about 10."

After that, the city asked Black and Veatch to confirm the numbers and hired them in 2013 to do a modeling. They looked at 57 years of rain records and the yield analysis showed two times the need of El Dorado during back to back droughts of record.

"We wanted to be ultra conservative, so we didn't model the drought of the 50s," he said. "We repeated it so it was twice as bad as the drought of the 50s and using twice as much water for the model. In non-drought times, an additional 30 mgd is available 78 percent of the time without depleting the reservoir more than five feet. The lake has the capacity to serve 250,000 people and it currently serves about 30,000 people."

Looking to the future, potential customers include Andover, Benton, Rose Hill, Derby, Mulvane, Sedgwick RWD 3, Butler RWD 8, Wichita, Augusta, Valley Center, Bel Aire, Kechi and Park City.