Hiawatha The Kickapoo Reservation in northeast Kansas is on the verge of running completely out of water.
The Upper Delaware River, the tribe's only water source, is so low it has stopped flowing. Soon there won't be any water to process at the water treatment plant the Kickapoo have operated on their land since 1977.
Once that happens, the tribe will need about $700,000 a month in assistance to have water -- an estimated 72,000 gallons a day, at least -- trucked in.
"The tribe's current inadequate supply and capacity has been reduced to levels that without some type of emergency measures, the tribe's water supplies could be completely diminished in a matter of days," tribal chairman Steve Cadue wrote in a letter of appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week.
Cadue also has requested assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Only small, scattered pools of algae-filled water remain in Plum Creek, the main tributary stream of the Delaware in the northwest corner of the reservation. Near the water treatment plant, brackish water is backed up in front of the low concrete-and-wood dam that marks the end of the river's run.
Congress approved construction of the proposed Plum Creek Reservoir in 1998, but the funds have yet to materialize. Meanwhile, the tribe's decadelong water woes continue.
The tribe last faced a water crisis during the 2000 drought. Coleen Thomas, the tribe's assistant environmental director, said it was September of that year before the pipes that draw water from the river to the treatment plant were exposed.
Joe McKinney, the tribe's emergency manager, said there was a misconception among people who didn't live on the reservation that the tribe's Golden Eagle Casino gobbled up all the water.
The casino is one of only two businesses on the reservation, the other being the Kickapoo Trading Post. McKinney said the casino used less than one-eighth of the water processed on the reservation.
The lack of water could cause a new problem for the casino, which is the tribe's largest employer. Without water to wash dishes, the casino will start using disposable plates and cutlery to feed its guests. That, McKinney said, will generate more solid waste.