RWD 4 exploring water sources
Six years remain on Douglas County Rural Water District No. 4's current contract to purchase water from the city of Lawrence, but Scott Schultz is already concerned.
"When we started meeting with other entities in the 1990s, the Kansas Water Office brought us all together and said, 'You need to be planning 10 years down the road,'" said the rural water district's administrator. "It's six years from the expiration of our contract with Lawrence, and frankly I'm getting pretty antsy."
The board of the 70-square-mile eastern Douglas County rural water district met Tuesday in Baldwin to get information on what Schultz said were eight different options it was considering for future water supply. Under consideration are the continued purchase from the cities of Baldwin and Lawrence and a new connection to Ottawa. But the search also has the water district considering building its own treatment plant on the Kansas River alone or with partners, or connecting to sources as distant as a possible new water plant several rural water districts are considering west of Lawrence, Hillsdale Lake through a Johnson County water district, or the treatment plant on the old Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.
"We've been juggling seven or eight balls in the air," Schultz said. "As a manager, I'd like to drop five or six and get it down to one or two."
Moreover, Schultz said the water district might work with the city of Wellsville, which is looking to secure its future water sources.
The water district fills its current needs with water purchased from Johnson County Rural Water District No. 6 — which wheels water it purchased fromOlathe — and the cities of Lawrence and Baldwin.
Among those speaking to the board Tuesday was De Soto city engineer Mike Brungardt. He gave an update on status of De Soto's Sunflower water plant, the water rights associated with it and attempts to create a public water wholesale district that would be supplied by the Sunflower plant.
With the help of a 50 percent grant from the state, De Soto, the city of Gardner and Johnson County Water Districts Nos. 6 and 7 are currently sharing in the cost of a feasibility study of using the plant to supplies the jurisdictions water. The concept is member jurisdictions would jointly own the Sunflower water plant and have a voting interest in its operation and management.
Douglas County 4 didn't participate in the feasibility study because it purchases water from Johnson County 6. Schultz said it was decided the Johnson County water district would look out for his district's interest for now.
Schultz said Douglas County RWD No. 4 might be interested in full participation in the public water wholesale district in the future, especially should JoCo RWD 6 decline membership.
The prospect of being a full member with the opportunity to vote on water rates rather than have them established by another jurisdiction was attractive, Schultz said.
Brungardt told the board the Sunflower plant, whether owned by De Soto or a future public water wholesale district, could supply water to Douglas County RWD No. 4 for $3.13 per 1,000 gallons. The price in the water district's current contractual agreement with the city of Lawrence is $3.83 per 1,000 gallons.
Brungardt said that same rate would be available to the city of Baldwin, however that would required installation of 15 miles of water line.
The Sunflower plant and its well field could handle the added demand, Brungardt said.