Wichita Area Water Concern

This week, I have had several conversations with people about the water situation in Wichita. You may have read the following articles:

The first article states that if the draught continues, Wichita will run out of water by the summer of 2015. Peak water use occurs during the summer because of irrigation. Solutions could include the recharging of the Equus Beds (known as the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) program), voluntary water conservation and higher water rates for people who consume the most water. Unfortunately, the tone of this article is not optimistic about any long term solutions.

The second article highlights the unpredictability of the drought duration and describes Governor Brownback’s response to the current conditions. Brownback advocates for statewide conservation by individuals and businesses, as well as development of alternative water sources. Farmers may have to plant crops that require less water. People who pump excessive amounts of water from wells will be penalized. The lack of water also affects recreational areas. Many lakes in Kansas have become inaccessible to boats because the water levels are so low. Conservation, higher water prices, and improvement of the Equus Beds wells to allow increased pumping, will only stretch the city’s water supply by about 4 years. Unfortunately we cannot predict how long the drought will last.

I have been thinking a lot about water conservation, especially as I consider my yard and what landscaping I might do this spring and summer. My professor alerted me to a graywater bill that was introduced in the Kansas Legislature on February 13, 2013. Household graywater is water that has been used once in washing machines, showers, bathtubs, or bathroom sinks and is safe for watering plants. The bill proposes that graywater from homes could be used for gardening, composting, or landscaping, but not for watering fruit or vegetables. The water would have to flow through a drip-irrigation system or an underground system and could not spray into the air or flow onto pavement or onto other people’s property. Homes with graywater systems would have to have the graywater tanks and piping clearly labeled as non-potable. It is exciting to see that it might become legal in Kansas to use household graywater for irrigation of a flower garden or landscaping. In order to use graywater, it has to be simple to collect. For me, the most accessible source of graywater would be my washing machine. I discovered that there are many cities in the U.S with graywater programs. A great resource specifically on using graywater from washing machines comes from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

May we all find creative ways to conserve our precious water!