Topeka Water officials say natural resources in the region are capable of sustaining the expected growth.
Douglas County is expected to have the fastest growth of any county in Kansas with population and demand for water more than doubling by 2040, state water planners said Wednesday.
After months of local survey work, planners from Kansas Water Office have completed water demand projections for every city, rural water district and county in Kansas. The unprecedented collection of water data and estimates is on the Internet at www.kwo.org/kwo/pop-tables/main.htm.
"Kansas has never prepared population and water demand projections for every city and every rural water district," said Darrel Eklund of Kansas Water Office. "I don't even know of any place in the nation that's done it."
Planners summarized their findings Wednesday for members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
"We found significant population growth has occurred since the 1990 U.S. Census in most of our more urban counties," Eklund told lawmakers. "Population in a five-county area in eastern Kansas (Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Shawnee) is projected to increase 93 percent by 2040, from 685,654 to 1,324,180 by 2040."
Within that projected five-county hot spot, Douglas County, with 121-percent growth forecast, is the hottest, Eklund said in a later interview.
"Douglas is our fastest-growing county in the state," he said. "The percentage increase in population projected for Douglas is greatest."
Population in the county is expected to go from 81,798 to 181,129 by 2040, Eklund said
Annual water use in Douglas County is expected to shoot from 4 billion to 8 billion gallons by 2040, according to the Water Office crystal ball.
Eklund said the agency's projections are from U.S. Census data matched against reviews of building permits, forecasts provided by local public water supply officials, and other data.
Water supply for Douglas County and others in the Kansas River basin should be more than enough for the expected boom, said Terry Duvall, the agency's water marketing director.
"On the supply side, no problem," she said. "Where we see the problems ... is infrastructure, not enough towers, not enough treatment facilities, not enough pipe, or need to replace old pipe. Drought vulnerability is another thing, not being able to react fast enough in drought conditions."
Water is still available in Perry, Hillsdale and Milford reservoirs, she said. And the Kansas River is robust, one of the few in the state still open to those seeking new water rights.
"We think we've done a good job getting the supply in place with all the storage we bought (in the reservoirs) from the federal government," Duvall said. "Now the problem is how do you get it to the folks that need it."
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