Lawrence is soaking in rights to nearly 8 billion gallons of water a year, and city officials are looking for more.
Thirsty Lawrence residents can go ahead and relax: The city has more than twice as much water as it needs.
``When you have a growing city like we do, you need to be looking into the future,'' said Chris Stewart, the city's water systems engineer. ``That's what we're doing now.''
Even though Lawrence currently holds the rights to nearly 8 billion gallons of water a year -- enough to quench the city's annual thirst with 4.24 billion gallons to spare -- officials are looking to secure access to even more water.
During the next three months, utilities officials will be ready to apply for additional surface water rights for the Kansas River, where the city already skims 1.7 billion gallons a year.
The city also plans to look for more locations to dig wells along the river, possibly in North Lawrence or near the KPL plant north of town, Stewart said. Earlier this week, Lawrence city commissioners agreed to send in a ``certification of well water rights'' to the state's Division of Water Resources in Topeka.
All of the aquatic attention is necessary to keep Lawrence in line not only with city growth, but also with concerns about the unpredictable, such as environmental changes and droughts.
``Water is a major resource,'' City Manager Mike Wildgen said. ``We're extremely lucky to have the water resources that we have, and we need to guard those. ... It's simply a resource that we want to husband and treat properly and guard for our citizens.''
The city currently gets its water through intakes along the river, from wells in Burcham Park and using intakes at Clinton Lake. The water is then treated at two treatment plans before being pumped into a system of storage tanks and more than 350 miles of water mains, which in turn feed about 23,500 customers.
Stewart said the city's existing rights and contracts would give the city enough water for the next 30 years, but that additional rights and contracts would provide better security. The goal is to have access to enough water in each source -- the river or Clinton Lake -- to satisfy the city's needs.
Currently, the city has access to about 3 billion gallons a year from the river and another 4.8 billion gallons from Clinton Lake. The city used 3.7 billion gallons in 1997.
``It's good planning to know where your water's going to come from in the future,'' Stewart said. ``You just have to continually look at that situation. You have to be prepared for drought periods, is what it comes down to. You also have to be prepared to meet the growing demands in the future.''
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is email@example.com.