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Proposal: $6 million rural water plant near Lawrence


Plans for a $6 million water plant near Lawrence are taking another big step forward, but no, it is not a sign that my wife actually has talked me into watering my lawn.

Instead, work is progressing on the area's newest public wholesale water supply district. As we previously reported, Douglas County Rural Water District No. 5 and Osage County Rural Water District No. 5 have joined forces to create a new district that will provide treated water to customers in both districts.

The district has applied for a conditional use permit that will clear the way for construction to begin on 28 acres about a quarter-mile east of the intersection of East 1750 and North 1500 roads. I'll save you the time of unfolding your Douglas County map: That's in the Kansas River valley between Lawrence and Eudora.

The site is right next to the Kaw, but the plant will use ground water wells rather than taking the water directly from the river. Larry Wray, administrator for the wholesale water district and for Douglas County RWD No. 5, said testing on the wells has begun. Those tests will tell plant officials specifically what type of treatment equipment will be needed in the plant.

Although the district is getting its permits in order, construction is not imminent. Design work will take a while, Wray said, and construction likely would not start before late 2014. In addition to the plant, design work has to be done for about a 30-mile piping system to take the water from eastern Douglas County all the way into western Osage County. That distribution system is expected to run about $10 million, Wray said. He hopes to have the plant and system operational in 2016.

Plans call for the plant to have a production capacity of about 1 million gallons per day, but it could be expanded fairly easily to about 2.5 million gallons per day. The site is large enough to accommodate a significantly larger plant than that, though.

"We have room to expand if somebody else pops up who wants water," Wray said.

At the moment, though, it is just the two rural water districts that have signed on to buy water from the plant. For a while, it looked like the plant may be a significant competitor to the city of Lawrence, which sells treated water to a variety of rural water districts and to Baldwin City. Baldwin City's long-term water contract with Lawrence was nearing its end as the plant was being discussed. But Baldwin City and Lawrence officials earlier this year reached a new deal for Lawrence to continue supplying Baldwin City.

But who knows what twists and turns the world of water will take in this region over the next decade. The new plant will further cement Douglas County's standing as a fairly water-rich county, with supplies coming from Clinton Lake, the Kansas River and the underground wells it feeds.

Maybe someday, there actually will be enough water in Douglas County to keep my lawn green. No, I doubt it.


1southernjayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Great idea. City of Lawrence has been raping rural water customers for many years. Hope they can pull it off.

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 6 months ago

Raping? Wow. You must be the king of hyperbole. Having said that, I believe rural residents are enjoying a subsidized lifestyle at the big city residents expense. You guys use our roads. You use our infrastructure. Your kids get bussed to school for free whereas we have to pay for our kids. Etc. etc. etc.

anotherview 4 years, 6 months ago

So, I guess I'll do all my shopping in cities other than Lawrence so they can collect the sales tax and gasoline tax, etc. That way I won't use up your roads.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

It's called pork barrel spending for the real estate industry. Now that the SLT appears to be on the way many many many new houses are on the board. This will of course increase the cost of government because residential does not pay back the tax dollar cookie jars.

Oh yes those living "in the county" will see lots and lots and lots of new neighbors and traffic.

Of course more new crime will follow ......... a substantiated pattern. Will require an expanded law enforcement budget also a substantiated pattern.

If new residential paid for itself and was financially positive Lawrence should never be in a budget crunch. Yet we see increases in taxes and fees. With increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by new residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

When the movers and shakers talk expanding the tax base they are confused. What taxpayers get is expanded tax bills....... nickel dime at a time which in due time add up to thousands of tax dollars at a time.

alittlecurious 4 years, 6 months ago

Precisely where are the "many many many new houses" on the board at? When one considers the location of the flood prone land proposed for the SLT I have a difficult time believing that building permits would ever be obtained. There is only one interchange planned for the SLT between the "Iowa Street" exit and the "East 23rd Street" (at Haskell Avenue) to serve all of new houses you refer to. Can you enlighten me?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

"The site is right next to the Kaw, but the plant will use ground water wells rather than taking the water directly from the river."

This area has been closing out in a drought for several years not easily restored

"An aquifer is a groundwater storage reservoir in the water cycle. While groundwater is a renewable source, reserves replenish relatively slowly. The USGS has performed several studies of the aquifer, to determine what is coming in (groundwater recharge from the surface), what is leaving (water pumped out and baseflow to streams), and what the net changes in storage are (rise, fall or no change — see figure above).

Withdrawals from the Ogallala Aquifer for irrigation amounted to 26 km3 (21,000,000 acre·ft) in 2000. As of 2005, the total depletion since pre-development amounted to 253,000,000 acre feet (312 km3).[5] Some estimates indicate a remaining volume sufficient for as little as 25 years.

Many farmers in the Texas High Plains, which rely particularly on the underground source, are now turning away from irrigated agriculture as they become aware of the hazards of over pumping.


New construction will certainly place a strain on supply I would imagine.

Stephanie Hull 4 years, 6 months ago

Thanks. Did you watch The Dust Bowl on PBS? Or read The Worst Hard Time (the book the documentary was based on)? Apparently we never learn the right lesson.

juma 4 years, 6 months ago

merrill as a sometimes reader of these comments you have always amused me with your lack of reality. I am a professional hydrogeologist and yes the High Plains Aquifer is in trouble but if you carefully study the map you may find that Douglas County is a long long ways from that aquifer. when going the grad school in hydrology a professor told all of us young naive students to go study minerals/oil. We asked why and he said that in minerals people will ask you for your advice in water everyone and their dog thinks they are experts. you have confirmed his statement.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 6 months ago

Completely agreed, juma--the High Plains Aquifer and Douglas County are hardly connected except for a few molecules of water historically might have made it down the Kaw to Lawrence back when some of the upper tributaries of the Smoky Hill river had an artesian spring or two along its banks before they started pumping water out of the ground for irrigation.

But if you're still here, my understanding of the aquifers in Douglas County is that they are much less robust than the ones out west, with most of our water coming from surface runoff and the sandy Kaw river basin, where the proposed well is to be located. Folks in central Douglas County talk of the Tonganoxie Sands, a thin aquifer created by an ancient river bed, and I have a well that supposedly intersects with that. What I've noticed over the years from that well is that it's become increasingly salty, with lots of minerals, making it unusable for drinking. Could this be due to more and more folks tapping into that aquifer, sucking it down to less palatable levels, or could it be due to area oil wells reinjecting briny water back down into the wells as a consequence of drillling practices, or both? Or something else? Seems to me that the underground water resources are far less in Douglas County and many other eastern Kansas counties than out west simply because we don't have the benefit of the High Plains Aquifer under us.

Sue McDaniel 4 years, 6 months ago

And we continue the "we are made of money" style of life. If gas goes higher and people move closer to their jobs, Lawrence will be a ghost town of low to maybe middle income people with a class on top that doesn't have to care what it costs EVER!!!!!

juma 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, aquifers in eastern kansas are less extensive and surface water is more the common source of water. However, Eastern Kansas receives more rainfall (at least for now) so the aquifers have a higher recharge probability. What needs to be done is common sense water use. Everyday I see sprinklers watering streets and sidewalks for hours on end. Our great and in their mind all knowing CC should pass just a few regulations regarding lawn watering. Hays, for all of its rural 'hickness' according to many of the liberal intellectuals here in Lawrence, has a very good water policy. Commish Amyx should know, he had a house there.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 6 months ago

So any explanation about how my well has gotten so salty over the past 50 years? Used to be drinkable, now not. Maybe the Tonganoxie sands gets recharged by surface runoff, but what would explain the increased salinity?

bd 4 years, 6 months ago

The reason this wholsale district was formed was due to the city restricting water meter sales by the water districts and the inability for the Osage county water district to secure additional water rights for their Clinton lake water plant because the City of Lawrence has purchased ALL OF THE WATER RIGHTS TO CLINTON LAKE! The water districts are just looking out for their existing and future customers.

juma 4 years, 6 months ago

dear mikekt. although it may be true that Hays is more responsible due to weather I do not totally agree with that view as I spent several years working against a very uninformed political mafia ( by the way Lawrence was gifted with a Laverne Squire due to his water position (he skipped town). It may be true that surface water is in abundance in Douglas Co. but the water waste down the curb has been treated; that is $$$$$$ spent on processing water that is wasted. We need a responsible water management code. If you want help I will gladly accept; 25 years experience in water.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

"Douglas County is a long long ways from that High Plains aquifer." Lucky for the aquifer and thanks for pointing that out.

Simply because the houses have not been presented does not mean they are not on the table.

Real estate industry has been waiting on the SLT for awhile. So I have been told the real estate industry does own plenty of property along the way. This property has not been purchased to maintain a beautiful green forest for the drive along the SLT.

Again the past few years this area has been closing out in a drought which makes replacing water a difficult task. Rainfall and snow fall in this area has dropped considerably over the years. Less natural water supply and never ending new construction seems like a head on collision.

Perhaps the smart approach would be to place a moratorium on expanding Lawrence and associated new construction. Additionally Implement a 24/7 water conservation policy that also addresses the large corporate farmers.

Until such time the area realizes a substantial increase in water supply for at least 20 consecutive years.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

How much water is available? 20 years , 40 years , 50 years none of which is very long.

Does the answer depend on how much new construction takes place? Plus rainfall/snowfall over the next 100 years?

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