Eastern Kansas facing water supply shortages

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — While most discussions about water shortages in Kansas focus on western parts of the state, officials say the east also needs to address looming problems.

The state is planning a $20 million project to dredge sediment from the John Redmond Reservoir near Burlington. Researchers say the state’s 24 federal reservoirs will lose more than half their capacity by 2100, and that dredging would be difficult, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1nMOS3X ).

“Restoring the original volume of the 24 at the end of the century, at today’s prices, would cost $13.6 billion,” said Jerry deNoyelles, deputy director and senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey at the University of Kansas. “And where would we put all this sediment if we chose to dredge it?”

The John Redmond project is being financed over 15 years with state bonds, with the first year’s payment on those bonds, $1.6 million, included in this year’s budget bill signed Gov. Sam Brownback.

The governor has directed state agencies to develop a 50-year “vision” for sustaining water resources, with much of the work concentrated on western Kansas, where residents largely depend on the rapidly depleting Ogallala Aquifer.

Eastern Kansas gets much of its supply from surface water impounded in artificial lakes, and that also poses challenges, deNoyelles said.

“The governor is asking for a 50-year plan,” deNoyelles said. “Over the next 50 years, seven of our reservoirs will become 50-percent infilled with sediment.”

Besides dredging, eastern Kansas could consider constructing floodwater bypasses around the dams so that sediment doesn’t become trapped in the lake. But most of the dams were originally built for flood protection, he said, meaning that won’t be a viable solution in most cases.

Building new reservoirs is a possibility but on whose land, he asked.

Eastern Kansas residents might have to copy efforts in the west to reduce water use, he said.

“There are still communities in Kansas where 50 percent of their reservoir water use during the summer is for watering lawns,” deNoyelles said. “And we are going to have to get way more serious about conserving water, both for groundwater systems and surface water systems.”


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com



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