Topeka Most Kansans would have to pay a new fee on water use under legislation heard Wednesday.
The fee of 3 cents per 1,000 gallons of water would be used to help stop sedimentation of lakes and reservoirs, which officials say leads to foul-tasting water and could result in dangerous water shortages.
“Sedimentation in our reservoirs is a serious and growing issue,” said Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office. “Our ability to meet the state’s growing demand will be compromised if we do not begin to take action soon.”
Nearly 60 percent of Kansans rely on surface water supplies for drinking water. But sediment washed into these reservoirs is reducing the amount of water available for drinking, irrigation, industry and recreation. Most Kansas reservoirs are an average of 40 years old.
“Many Kansas reservoirs are silting in faster than originally anticipated; several are silting in two to three times faster than anticipated,” said Ed Martinko, state biologist and director of the Kansas Biological Survey.
Six of the 20 federal reservoirs in Kansas that are used for drinking water are more than 20 percent silted in; four are 40 percent or more, Martinko said. Since its construction in 1969, Perry Lake has lost 18 percent of its capacity.
In addition to reducing water storage capacity, the sedimentation creates water quality problems by promoting algae blooms that kill fish, which affects taste and odor.
Lawrence has battled taste and odor issues, and the city of Wichita has spent more than $10 million over the past decade to deal with foul-tasting and smelling water, Martinko said.
The House Vision 2020 Committee, chaired by state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, is considering House Bill 2428, which would assess a “sustainability” fee of 3 cents per 1,000 gallons of water. It would not be charged to groundwater systems. For a household using 5,000 gallons per month, that would add 15 cents to the bill. Sloan said the committee could would work on the bill next week and possibly recommend its approval to the full House.
The fee would generate about $2 million annually and would go into a fund to measure, test and monitor water supply lakes.
The most inexpensive way to extend the life of reservoirs may be to stabilize stream banks, officials said.
“As funding becomes available, the strategy to implement stream bank protection project for an entire watershed or significant portions of a watershed may prove to be priceless, said Greg Foley, executive director of the State Conservation Commission.
In addition, Streeter said federal help will be needed to assist the state in providing enough water for Kansas.