City officials: Sales tax increase key to surviving future droughts

Director of public works Alan King says the city

MGN Online

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As the California drought continues to take its toll, forcing residents to cut back on water use, officials here warn the same could happen in Wichita, if improvements aren't made to the water system.

Director of public works Alan King says the city's proposed one percent sales tax increase is key to avoiding a future crisis.

Over five years, the tax initiative is expected to generate $400 million. Around $250 million of that will go toward King's department to help improve the city's water supply.

"Presently we have the Cheney Reservoir, where we get most of our water, we have the Equus Beds up north of town, where we get about 40 percent of our water," King said. "And we have an ASR project now, that diverts water out of the little Arkansas River, treats it, and then puts it into the Equus Beds aquifer for later use."

But King says that's not enough; Wichita needs an additional 30 million gallons of water a day, plus significant conservation efforts, to be able to protect residents in a one percent drought through 2060.

King says there are three ways to achieve that goal.

1.) Give all of the money to El Dorado, where a water treatment plant and a pipeline from there to Wichita would be built.

2.) Take untreated water from El Dorado to Wichita and treat it in Wichita.

3.) Enhance the ASR facility, which King believes is the best option.

"The biggest piece of this is adding another storage reservoir to be able to take water and store it, so that when the river level goes down, we can take that water out of the reservoir and put it through our treatment plant," he explained.

Part of the ASR plan would also include building a pipeline parallel to the existing pipeline that goes from the ASR to the city, so there is a backup in case the first pipeline fails.

City council members are expected to vote on which plan they want to go with during their meeting on August 5.

The remaining $150 million from the tax proposal will go toward public transit, road improvements, and economy and job development.

Voters still have the final say. If the city council approves a plan by Aug. 18, the question of whether or not to increase the sales tax will go on the November ballot.

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