- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita city officials are studying the possibility of someday using treated wastewater for purposes ranging from drinking to irrigation.

That’s one option the city is considering as it searches for ways to improve its water supply in the next 50 years. A report from city public works officials and outside consultants is expected this spring, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1mw36JK ). Another option being considered is buying water from El Dorado and piping it into Wichita.

No decisions have been made, and City Council members will discuss options for a long-term water supply in April.

Public Works Director Alan King said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is working on regulations for turning wastewater into drinking water, based on regulations used in California.

The city is most interested in “indirect potable water reuse,” which would require putting wastewater into the Arkansas River and reclaiming it downstream after it is in storage wells for treatment, King said.

City Council member James Clendenin said he is excited about the idea.

“That’s what I’m focusing my energies on - the water we drop into the Arkansas River that others are taking out of the river and using for themselves, cities like Arkansas City, the Kaw Lake in northern Oklahoma that provides a number of water users,” said council member James Clendenin. “Why are we not using the discharge water from the wastewater facility, and that’s 30 million gallons on the low end? To me, that’s 30 million gallons a day we’d have available to us.”

However, Arkansas City, which has between 3 million and 5 million gallons of wastewater discharge daily, does not have a major reuse program because of costs, said city manager Nick Hernandez, who also acknowledged that it is difficult to sell the idea of drinking or otherwise using sewer water.

“We’d actually have to put in a giant wetlands that would serve as a pre-treatment of sorts to eliminate biological concerns,” he said. “You’d have to have a very large acreage to build a giant wetland so the particles in the water can be absorbed by the plants and soil below it.”

State health officials advised Arkansas City several years ago against converting wastewater into drinking water, he said.

“The best use you have for that water is to re-utilize it for irrigation, for reflushing toilets, a lot of different applications. You just can’t use it for drinking and cooking,” Hernandez said.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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