Having just begun work on a $40 million wastewater treatment plant, Lawrence city officials are turning their attention to the other end of the city water system.
During a Wednesday study session, they heard a proposal for nearly $13 million in improvements to the city's Clinton Water Treatment Plant, which treats a little more than a third of the city's drinking water.
The work is needed because the city has outstripped its water treatment capacity.
One day this summer, the city's two plants Clinton and the Kaw River water treatment plants treated and pumped 1 million more gallons than their "firm capacity" of 26.5 million gallons a day. A pump failure in that situation would have meant immediate forced rationing, said Chris Stewart, water systems engineer.
"You are getting into an area where you don't have backup," Stewart said.
The potential crisis this summer was averted when large water users like the city itself, golf courses and Kansas University cut back their usage voluntarily.
Stewart would like to see the city move forward with about half the improvements next year: new pumps and basins that would add 5 million gallons of capacity.
The second phase of the overall project will be delayed until the Environmental Protection Agency settles on its new regulations.
Steve Phillips, a principal with city consultant Black & Veatch, said the EPA's regulations are being reviewed and likely will be tightened considerably within the next several years.
"They've really made a big step into the public drinking water supply," Phillips said.
The projects are to be financed through the sale of bonds that would be paid back through water customer fees. The projects, city officials said, won't require a special water rate increase because they already are included within the water utility capital improvement plan.