Water conservation has always been an important part of city water management. New regulations from Kansas Water Resources may limit available water in the future, based on conservation efforts.
Pratt city officials face a water dilemma. In the past, a conservative approach to water usage has been prudent because saving the resource which comes from an ever-shrinking water table has been a necessary part of conserving resources. Now, the city finds itself in a challenging position due to a new plan by Kansas Water Resources set to decrease future water allocation based on past usage.
"With a recent extension until 2023, Pratt has some time to increase water usage but we can do so only in what is called beneficial and non-wasteful manner,” said city manager Roy Eckert. "That definition is open to interpretation based on water availability, quality, irrigation use, manufacturing opportunities (current and/or future opportunities) and population needs which varies from city to city, to name only a few of the numerous variables."
The common sense approach of conserving water has served Pratt well in the past, yet that practice may end up in decreasing future water allocations, Eckert said.
Pratt City Water Superintendent Kelvin Clay, who has 32 years of water experience in addition to a Class IV Water Management and Treatment Certification, has a conservation plan, water emergency plan and drought plan in place for Pratt. He and city staff have been working directly with the District Water Resources Office in Stafford to plan for future water needs.
"With their assistance and advice, we are anticipating increasing usage of our water allocations in the near future," Clay said.
In 2008, the City of Pratt received the Achievement Development Award for having management and financial reports completed and up to date. That practice is still being used.
"We need to have the Kansas Division of Water Resources take into consideration our current contract with the ethanol plant and that they are using only 50 percent of their requested water due to conservation practices," Clay said. "They could need more in the future. Also, the needs of the Pratt power plant steam generator comes into play if it were required to be used in the long-term for electrical generation and could use 350 acre feet of water per year. These are the future contracted and practical uses we have to take into consideration and that does not take into account potential future industrial and business usage."
Eckert, who serves on the State Regional Water Resource Advisory Board, said Pratt water allocations are vital and the city is doing everything the state is advising.
"The recent approval of a $1.5 million loan and a partial forgiveness of debt from the State of Kansas to install a new water line to the Pratt Airport confirms that we are compliant and are submitting accurate information to the State. Another date extension from the state may be possible if we should have a potential industry or business that would require substantial water resources for operations."
There are numerous discussions across Kansas dealing with water concerns at this time. Legislation stating that water re- sources must be based on increasing beneficial usage is difficult to quantify at this time.
“In order to protect Pratt’s current water rights, the city has been told that we need to use more water in order to avoid losing the amount of water rights we currently have," Eckert said. "Common sense would dictate that water conservation would secure water rights due to good stewardship. To have to use more water to keep the water rights we have can lead to wasting water, which serves no purpose and could possibly lower or deplete local water tables."
The City of Pratt cannot pump well water directly into the river due to the possible effects on the downstream fish hatchery and aquatic life by chlorinated water and nitrate levels. It is also questionable if city water may be used for irrigation due to the automated chlorination at the wells.
"We will continue to work in partnership with the Regional Division of Water Resource," Eckert said. "They have always been extremely cooperative and helpful and we value their expertise and cooperation."
Like many Kansas municipalities, the future of Pratt’s sustainable and growth opportunities are dependent on adequate water supply.
Information provided by Pratt City Manager Eckert.