As Lawrence's growth continues to outpace projections, the importance of water to the city's future continues to rise.
Recent population projections for Lawrence in the next 20 years shattered heretofore projections that city officials and others were using as a yardstick for municipal planning.
In fact, Lawrence's population today, approximately 88,000 to 89,000, is greater than visionaries only a few years ago projected the city's population to be in the year 2020.
With such a variance, or with such poor projections, Lawrence residents perhaps have a right to be somewhat nervous about other projections whether it is in traffic counts "X" number of years from now, public school enrollments, housing needs, water usage and other services.
The current, terribly hot and dry weather that area residents are enduring should trigger increased attention to the water supply situation for Lawrence. A recent news story indicated the new wastewater treatment facility currently under way is likely to reach its capacity far sooner than originally planned and that major modifications will be needed if it is to meet the needs of a city area of 129,000, which is now projected for 2025.
This facility is for treatment of water before it is returned to the Kansas River east of Lawrence.
What about the availability of water for Lawrence residents in the coming years? What happens when population totals are considerably greater than today's close to 90,000 residents?
Water usage by local residents has hit all-time highs in the past few days. What happens in the future with more water customers, unusually dry conditions, less water in the Kansas River due to greater demand upstream before it passes through Lawrence, and more demands on Clinton Reservoir? Where will the water come from to meet greater demands?
Fortunately a few years ago Lawrence officials exercised their right to purchase additional water rights at Clinton, and this will prove to be invaluable. Could Lawrence utilize or develop more deep wells?
It wasn't too long ago that most Lawrence residents gave little thought to water needs. The city was served by the Kansas River, and Clinton Reservoir offered a tremendous auxiliary supply. There was plenty of water for Lawrence in its future needs.
However, not too long ago there was discussion about diverting Kansas River water and perhaps water from reservoirs such as Tuttle Creek, Perry, etc., to serve cities in southern areas of the state that face far more severe water needs. This caused forward-looking residents concerned about water to question just how much water might be diverted and whether it was right for some of these water-lacking cities to be engaged in efforts to attract more residents, more industry and more business when they clearly wouldn't have ample water supplies of their own to service the needs.
Water is going to become increasingly important. Already many western states realize just how critical water is to their economic welfare and future growth.
This reasoning also applies to Kansas.
Lawrence residents should be far more concerned than they are about the city's future water needs. This "future" isn't as far off as some may have believed only a few years ago.