Scattered rain across Kansas has brought some recharge to the reservoirs in the eastern part of the state – good news for the communities that depend on those reservoirs for drinking and industrial water.
There is continued concern, however, that the prolonged drought now entering a third year could cause water supply shortages during the hot summer months.
In a public meeting in Burlington on Feb. 5, Kansas Water Office policy and planning director Susan Metzger told a crowd of about 100 people that sedimentation of John Redmond reservoir continues at a faster-than-predicted pace even as the drought pulls down water supplies.
Streambank stabilization efforts have been ongoing for several years in the drainage basin of John Redmond, which supplies water to several southeast Kansas towns and provides back-up supplies for the cooling lake at Wolf Creek nuclear power plant.
Metzger said several measures are being taken to help. The Kansas Water Office has asked for a two-foot permanent pool rise from 1,039 to 1,041 feet to increase storage and help communities survive long periods of drought.
Even with that additional capacity, the lake will still need help and the water office is seeking approval for a dredging project. To supply future water demands, the KWO estimates that 600,000 cubic yards of sediment will need to be removed annually at a cost ranging from $6 to $15 per cubic yard – a price tag of about $6 to $8 million per year.
Metzger said the KWO has made the argument for the project and has sufficient money for preliminary planning, developing an environmental impact statement and doing some preliminary design and engineering for facilities to dispose of dredged sediment. She said federal funds for the project will not be available.
Landowners and farmers in the region expressed concern that land for sediment deposit might be obtained by eminent domain and expressed a desire that that not happen. Metzger said land will be acquired through voluntary contribution of property or negotiated agreements between landowners and the state.
She said property owners who are interested in the possibility for an agreement to allow temporary sediment disposal should contact the Kansas Water Office.
Another lake of concern is Cheney Reservoir, which supplies much of the water for the city of Wichita. The Wichita city council will discuss possible water use restrictions in a meeting on Feb. 26. An actual vote on restrictions would take place later this year and hinges on whether or not drought persists.