South Hutchinson seeks new water pricing study

SOUTH HUTCHINSON – South Hutchinson City Council made some decisions Monday evening as part of the continued search for additional water for the city. But larger questions continue to hover over this complex issue.

The council, by consensus, directed City Administrator Joseph Turner to continue a water rate study while continuing negotiations with the Town of Hutchinson on a plan to purchase water from it in the future. .

The council also advised Turner to file an appeal with the Equus Beds Groundwater Management District over its denial of an application to allow the city to tap an existing well for additional water by converting a irrigation well nearby in municipal well.

Turner asked if the council should seek some sort of formal citizen input before proceeding with a plan to bring water from Hutchinson into the city, noting “there are political issues involved when you are permanently attached to the ‘water supply from another city’.

But several board members said the issues are ones the board must decide on behalf of the public.

Limited water supply

The city has three primary water wells from which it draws its municipal water. Since Turner joined the city, he has worked to ensure that the maximum water rights for each of these wells are secured or “perfected”, which is done by pumping a maximum amount from each well over a period of time. .

Under state water laws, if the right to water is not perfected every five years, the right to water is considered forfeited. The town of Hutchinson is also currently working to perfect its water rights.

The Town of South Hutchinson consistently uses more than 90% of its water allocation, but it hadn’t changed wells to perfect its rights to each well.

“We have about 350 million gallons that we can use,” Turner said. “We are constantly going in the 320 million range. It is highly dependent on Tyson (Foods) production levels. They are our biggest user.

City officials have long recognized that business development in and around the city is hampered by limited access to water.

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That’s why Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce officials are also negotiating with Hutchinson to route the water to a proposed industrial park two miles south of South Hutchinson on K-96, rather than buying it from the neighboring town.

Water quality is part of every discussion

There are also concerns about future water quality, Turner said.

The city contracted with Professional Engineering Consultants (PEC) of Wichita three or four years ago to study water needs and solutions.

This study suggested considering the construction of a reverse osmosis plant due to concerns about meeting future water quality standards.

“We currently don’t have a water quality issue by state standards,” Turner said Tuesday. “But it is believed that over time, the state or federal government may begin to impose stricter water quality guidelines.”

“At the same time, we expect a gradual decline in water quality from everything that enters the system. Water quality is degrading. To make water better, you need to have a treatment.”

Without more water to treat – and sell – however, officials are questioning such an investment.

Especially since reverse osmosis treatment causes 20-30% of the water to be siphoned off as waste, which would further reduce availability. Thus, a decision to operate the city’s irrigation well, even though they are unsure of the quality of that water.

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The objections raised by the water board are that the wells are too far apart – about 20ft, Turner said – and that drawing more from the existing well could exceed ‘safe yield’ rules that prevent areas from running out. .

The GMD board has offered a temporary permit allowing the city to do this, but it’s only good for five years, with potential renewals every five years up to 20 years, so it’s not not considered a long term solution.

Waterline Route

The town of Hutchinson has also agreed to sell water to a rural water district in Yoder, which is currently operating under a consent order from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment due to high levels of nitrates in its water.

A suggestion made in meetings with the city and county was that a new pipeline to bring water to Yoder go through South Hutchinson. This would allow a single line to bring water to South Hutchinson, Chamber Industrial Park and Yoder, rather than drilling multiple times under the Arkansas River and US 50.

Another idea floated during that discussion, Turner told the council, is that the water is sold to South Hutchinson, which would then sell it to Yoder and the industrial park.

This would make South Hutchinson responsible for maintaining the line to the south, Turner explained, which could be significant if the city annexes the land on which the future industrial park will sit.

Council members Jeremy Schmidt and Jeff Schenk asked if there would be savings by running Yoder’s water through South Hutchinson, but Turner said it was unknown.

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The cost?

Mayor Matt Nisly asked if Hutchinson had discussed tariffs.

“It’s not realistic to pay an out-of-town fare,” he said. “We would be a big wholesale buyer. Cost of production plus a reasonable markup is acceptable, but I have no desire to pay the out-of-town rate and full wholesale rate.

Schmidt pointed out that South Hutchinson, like the Yoder Water District, plans to mix city water with local water to reduce the amount the city buys.

The council also discussed how much Hutchinson water would be available for the city. Turner said Hutchinson is currently conducting a water capacity study.

“We need to have material, substantive conversations quickly if we’re going to piggyback on Yoder,” Turner said. “I can say that we are not ready (for the decisions), but there is a synergy to combine with Yoder. And we must be aware of the Chamber, which invests a lot of money in buying the land to build (the industrial park). It makes sense to take advantage of these.

“Help them decide to go through South Hutch,” said board member John Fairchild.

Public contribution

The discussion focused on whether the public should be involved in decisions and what information the city council needs before it can make them.

Turner asked about a non-binding voting question, but Nisly suggested a poll or a town hall meeting.

“Obviously, connecting to get more water doesn’t have huge downsides, but it’s the independence of the two cities and there have been different dynamics at times,” Nisly said. “I wouldn’t say it’s not without risks.”

“What difference does it make what people think?” asked Councilman John Fairbanks. “We’ve been talking about it for two years. What are you going to ask in a survey? Want to connect to Hutch? Are they going to say “Hell no, we don’t care about water problems?”

“It will be a big risk if we don’t connect with Hutch,” Turner said. “If we can’t get additional water rights, we’ll be in a bind if state water quality mandates become more stringent.”

The effort should be to educate the public, especially if the city plans to lobby for water conservation by asking those who use city water for irrigation to put in wells instead. private irrigation, Fairbanks said.

“We have to aggressively pursue the option of a (Hutchinson) connection,” Nisly said. “If it happens and doesn’t make sense, that’s fine. But this train is going down the tracks. We have to go on and explore and find if it suits us or not.

Raise prices

As the board accepted a rate study, Turner asked whether a rate hike recently approved by the board, scheduled to take effect in January, should continue or wait.

The board was unanimous in keeping the changes in place.

He also agreed to study sewage rates, which have not changed for five years, and asked Turner to see if the same contractor selected for the water rate study could also do water rates. sewers.

After the meeting, Turner said he would request quotes from PEC and the Kansas Rural Water Association.

On a separate issue related to the sewage treatment plant, city public works superintendent Ronnie Pederson said one of the plant’s two anaerobic digesters, installed in 1996, failed. .

The design cost of a replacement will be at least $52,000 and possibly up to $90,000.

The other digester was replaced eight or 10 years ago with a new system, but the KDHE won’t allow the city to simply reuse the blueprints, Pederson said, but requires a new “engineer-stamped set of blueprints.” “.

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