“We are in a hot dry period,” said Kent Hixson, Mulvane City Manager. “We are a growing community.”
That combination has led to friction between the cities of Mulvane and Augusta over water use. Back in the 90's the two cities signed a contract saying Augusta would sell Mulvane up to 200 million gallons of water a year. Neither expected what's happened since.
Now people in Augusta are frustrated that Mulvane's using more water while Augusta has to conserve.
“Believe me, there's nobody out there that's more frustrated than I am,” said Bill Keefer, Augusta City Manager.
The contract that binds the city of Augusta to sell water to Mulvane through the 2030s is a topic of conversation all over both towns.
“Because of drought situations both the City Lake and Santa Fe Lake have been stressed, you know, considerably,” said Keefer.
Those are two of Augusta's three main water sources. El Dorado Lake is the third.
“We are somewhat limited on the amount of water that we can take from the water line from El Dorado,” explained Keefer.
At City Lake, weeds stand five to six feet tall where there’s supposed to be water. If it would just rain and replace the weeds with water many of the disagreements between the city of Mulvane and Augusta would disappear. Many, but not all.
“There was cause for concern,” said Keefer about the water levels. “Is that going to last the summer?”
Last summer, the City of Augusta imposed mandatory water restrictions on its residents and asked Mulvane to do the same.
“And we've been under mandatory water restrictions since that time,” said Hixson.
Despite that precautionary measure, Mulvane's water usage has risen 15% this summer.
“We are doing all we can, in terms of the city, to reduce our water use,” said Hixson. “But, we are a growing community.”
That's why Augusta wanted Mulvane to refurbish two of its city wells, wells it had stopped using when it started buying water from Augusta. Mulvane did. Those wells are now waiting for Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) approval. Then, Mulvane will begin adding their water to the pot.
“The concern there is long term,” said Keefer. “Because they only have the casino in operation now. They're going to build the motel and the arena down there. And what will that do to the usage?”
And then there's the cost of keeping facilities up to date and cleaning all that extra water, something the current forty year contract doesn't allow Augusta to charge for.
“And that's debt that the citizens of Augusta have had to absorb,” said Keefer.
“Water is a scarce and limited resource. And how we conserve it, and what it's going to cost to produce clean water, people need to get ready for a difficult time ahead,” said Hixson.
The two city managers and their respective city attorneys will be meeting on Thursday to discuss where they can go from here, in a way that satisfies the demands of both cities.