Weekly News - Apr. 16, 2018
04/16/2018 - Weekly KRWA E-News
House Farm Bill Great for Rural Water
On April 12, 2018, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway from Texas introduced his version of the 2018 Farm Bill: “The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2).” The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin debate on the proposal this Wednesday. H.R. 2 represents three years of work, 113 hearings and six listening sessions around the country attended by more than 1,100 people. The Farm Bill is the primary rural development, agricultural and food policy legislation of the federal government. Many of the most essential federal policy agenda items for the National Rural Water Association are authorized in the Farm Bill including USDA rural water grants and loans, wastewater technical assistance, Circuit Riders, source water protection, Section 1926(b) territorial protection, USDA’s emergency water assistance grant program, etc. NRWA is grateful the House Committee’s bill included all NRWA legislative requests including the following summarized provisions:
- Section 6204; Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grants: Authorizes USDA’s rural water loans and grants.
- Section 6205 & 6206; Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program: Authorizes rural water Circuit Riders and Wastewater Technicians, the primary technical assistance for local communities to operate safe and clean drinking water and wastewater systems and to help ensure compliance with current water regulations.
- Section 2402; Grassroots Source Water Protection Program: Authorizes the NRWA source water protection initiative to assist rural and small communities in protecting drinking water sources from potential contamination.
- Section 6204; Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grants: Retains 7 U.S.C. §1926(b), service area protection from unfair annexation, condemnation or competition. This law has been under continual attack in Congress by utilities that desire unfair capture of their neighbor’s service area. NRWA has been successful in marshalling its strength to persuade Congress to resist changing the law.
- Section 6208; Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant Program: Authorizes USDA to provide funding to eligible communities to recover from an emergency that threatens the availability of safe drinking water.
- Section 2503; Administrative Requirements for Conservation Programs: Allows some of the existing source water protection programs within the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to be targeted to protecting “source waters for drinking water (including protecting against public health threats) while also benefiting agricultural produce.”
Technology and the Future Were the Focus at First Ogallala Aquifer Summit
As farmers across the high plains fight to stop Ogallala depletion from continuing and bankrupting the region, producers, water experts, agriculturists and stakeholders gathered in Garden City last week to share stories, brainstorm conservation ideas and unite to tackle an issue that will require careful care in perpetuity. The High Plains region accounts for 27 percent of all U.S. irrigated land and 30 percent of all U.S. groundwater used for irrigation. The region also supports 32,000, or 10 percent, of all U.S. farms and yields $20 billion in annual revenues in food and fiber production alone. Without the aquifer, none of that would be possible. When it comes to conservation practices, Saleh Taghvaeian, assistant professor and Extension specialist in water resources at Oklahoma State University’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, told those in attendance that states aren’t actively adopting technologies like soil and crop sensors to monitor water efficiencies. Using information from the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey, he noted that only 11 percent of relevant producers use the sensors in Oklahoma, 12 percent in Kansas, 11 percent in Texas, and 23 percent in Nebraska. The national average is 11 percent. “These sensors have been around for a long time, and yet there is only a small percentage of producers who are using it,” he said, adding that he’s part of a team studying the low adoption rate and trying to increase it. Jim Butler, senior scientist and chief of the geohydrology section of the Kansas Geological Survey, noted that states overlying the Ogallala have been “heavily” utilizing it as a water resource for decades, which has come with a price. In parts of Kansas, the aquifer already has depleted by 60 percent, he said, “and it’s not coming back.” He added that reduced pumping in intensively pumped areas still will result in small declines, but in areas with less pumping, the aquifer could still replenish. On average, he said, reduced pumping will stabilize the aquifer, and parts of the state will require reduced pumping of as much as 32 percent to accomplish that goal. The 2-day event drew approximately 200 people both days.
Can the Ogallala Aquifer be Saved? LEMAs Might Help!
Rex Buchanan is director emeritus of the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. For more than 20 years, he's also helped measure water levels in the Ogallala. In this audio commentary, he talks about some of the efforts underway to preserve the aquifer... before the wells all run dry.
Kansas Dairy Ingredients of Hugoton Receives EPA Region 7 Pollution Prevention Award
Kansas Dairy Ingredients, a dairy production facility in Hugoton, Kansas, received the EPA Region 7 Pollution Prevention Award last week during ceremonies at the Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference at the Kansas City Convention Center. Kansas Dairy Ingredients incorporated a number of water conservation projects into its business operations, as part of the company’s sustainability initiatives. The company manufactures concentrated milk through ultrafiltration. Water is extracted from the milk, cleaned and treated, and then reused to clean the facility or returned to local farms for crop irrigation. The reclaimed water reduces municipal water procurement and wastewater, saving more than 41 million gallons a year. “The Pollution Prevention, or P2, awards program recognizes forward-thinking organizations that improve the environment and our quality of life,” said Jim Gulliford, EPA Region 7 Administrator. “There is ample evidence that even greater improvements in protecting the environment and public health are possible through voluntary, community and industry-based pollution prevention programs.”
Dodge City Warrior Project Biogas Facility Complete
The City of Dodge City hosted a ribbon cutting on Apr. 14, to celebrate the completion of their Warrior Project Biogas Facility. The facility produces biomethane generated from Dodge City’s South Wastewater Treatment Plant. Construction of the biomethane plant started last fall. As of Feb., the facility started producing pipeline quality biomethane to be sold as a transportation fuel. An anaerobic digestion process produces raw biogas at an average rate of 1.6 million cubic feet of biogas per day. “That number can rise to over 2.25 million cubic feet of biogas per day in the summer months,” said Ray Slattery, Director of Engineering for the City of Dodge City. “For the past 14 years since the completion of an expansion project, City staff has been looking for ways to utilize the raw bio-gas the plant creates.” Utilizing the by-product from the water treatment plant for useful means has the potential to produce revenue as well as cut City expenses, Slattery said. According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, energy generated at U.S. wastewater treatment plants could potentially meet 12% of the national electricity demand.
Leawood’s Tomahawk Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility Getting $335 Million Expansion
The Leawood wastewater plant currently processes about 40-percent of the wastewater coming from Leawood, Overland Park, Prairie Village and Olathe. The remaining 60-percent is sent to a treatment facility in Kansas City at a cost of $16 million a year. Expansion would increase the capacity at the Leawood wastewater plant to allow it to treat all the wastewater from their area. The total cost of the project is $335 million, and they hope to complete it in the next three years.
Searching for Bodies and Water, Sedgwick County Dowsers Look for Mysteries to Solve
The American Society of Dowsers has more than 2,000 members in the United States and across the world. Nearly two decades into the 21st century, dowsers are finding new ways to make the folk tradition relevant. Dowsing is essentially a form of extra sensory perception. Those who practice it use pointers — copper wires, a forked stick, almost anything — to see if there are any changes or responses to unseen forces. Those who believe in dowsing say the technique can be used to find water, graves, buried metals — almost anything underground. But does it really work?
Hays Students Treasure Their Water
To meet the requirements of Hays’ Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the city is required to provide educational offerings to the community about the value of improving water quality. To meet that requirement, a water quality poster contest was offered by the city in partnership with Kansas State University Big Creek Middle Smoky Hill River Watersheds for school children and young adults in grades pre-K through college. There were 201 entries this year. The artists had to use the “Treasure Our Water” theme as the poster title and explain two important issues about water. Entries were judged on their water conservation/quality message, visual effectiveness, originality, and universal appeal. This year’s 201 winning posters will be displayed during the April 27th Hays Arts Council Spring Art Walk, with the location yet to be determined. They will also be displayed at the Ellis County Fair July 14-21.
Oklahoma Orders Cut in Wastewater Injection After Earthquakes
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has directed a wastewater disposal well there to reduce its volume of injection after more than a dozen earthquakes rattled part of northwest Oklahoma in recent weeks. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded three of those quakes last week, including one near Covington, rated magnitude 4.5. Magnitude 3.3 and 2.8 quakes were also recorded last week in an area about 55 miles north of Oklahoma City. In Kansas, the USGS reported a 3.2 magnitude earthquake that occurred last week near Hutchinson.
Corps of Engineers to Perform Dewatering and Dam Inspection at Clinton Lake
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Clinton Lake will dewater the lake’s water control structures to perform a dam safety inspection, from Apr. 17 to 24. Engineers will inspect the major features of the project, including the stilling basin, outlet works conduit, the equipment inside the intake tower, the tower itself and the embankments to ensure there is no damage beyond the normal wear of a 40-year-old dam. “The safety and performance of our dams is a top priority for the Corps of Engineers,” says Brian Turk, civil engineer. “By bringing in our engineers across multiple disciplines, we can ensure that each aspect of the dam is inspected by knowledgeable personnel.” Constructed in 1977, Clinton Lake spans eight miles up the Wakarusa River and covers 7,000 surface acres, with the ability to expand an additional 5,800 acres during periods of heavy rain as excess runoff is stored to reduce downstream flooding. The lake works in conjunction with several other Corps of Engineers lakes to provide flood reduction for the Kansas, Missouri and Mississippi rivers. For the safety of the public and lake personnel, access to the outlet channel and immediate area will be closed during the inspection period.
KRWA Training Calendar
April 19: Herington
Water Distribution Workshop
April 24: Lawrence
Sampling and Distribution Monitoring
April 25: Hutchinson
Complying with Drinking Water Regulations
April 26: Russell
Sampling and Distribution Monitoring
April 26: Wellington
Complying with Drinking Water Regulations
According the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, conditions continue to deteriorate across the state. Temperatures approached 100° F Thursday on the parched southern High Plains with single digit relative humidity values. Among the record high temperatures that were set in Kansas on Thursday included Garden City, with a high of 94° F, and Dodge City, with high of 96° F. Record lows were then set over the weekend. Kansas also saw little or no precipitation last week (less than 0.25 inches) as not only short-term indices (6-months or less) but also longer-term measurements (9- and 12-months) indicated drier conditions than depicted. Accordingly, all categories of drought were extended northward across the state to reflect the severe conditions and growing deficits (e.g., 8-14 inches at 12-months in central Kansas). Thursday's above normal high temperatures and low relative humidity values combined with dry vegetation resulted in large wildfires in the Oklahoma panhandle. In the Texas panhandle, water restrictions are being enforced in some communities and others in that region are examining their drought contingency plans. As mentioned in previous editions of KRWA E-News, the current drought is likely due to the weather phenomenon known as La Niña, which is associated with unusually cold surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. According to the latest monthly report released by NOAA/NWS/CPC on Apr. 12, La Niña continues to weaken, but was still active, as evidenced by below-average sea surface temperatures across the east-central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Most forecast models predict La Niña will decay and return to ENSO-neutral during the current March-May season. The forecaster consensus similarly favors a transition to neutral, with a continuation of ENSO-neutral (normal conditions) through the summer 2018.
Current U.S. Drought Monitor maps for:
Arkansas River Basin, High Plains Region, North-Central Region and State of Kansas