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McPherson Board of Public Utilities Breaks Ground on Their New Water Treatment Plant

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MCPHERSON, Kan. – On Thursday, June 15th, 2023, the McPherson Board of Public Utilities had a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the beginning of McPherson’s new and sustainable water supply, collectively known as the South Well Field (SWF) Project, with the construction of the new water treatment facility. While the event was ceremonial, heavy equipment was on site to begin the work immediately after the ceremony. Over seventy people attended the event, including Kansas Senator Rick Wilborn and representatives from US Senator Marshall’s office, US Senator Jerry Moran’s office, and US Congressman Tracey Mann’s office.

Addressing the attendees were Josh Bedel, BPU General Manager, Brian Meier from Burns & McDonnell, McPherson Mayor Tom Brown, Mike Zamrzla from Jerry Moran’s Office, Senator Rick Wilborn, and Tom Saffel, President of Prairie Land Works. Their comments spoke to the impact this project will make not only to the residents of McPherson but to all those outside of McPherson who rely on the Equus Beds Aquifer for their water supply. Subsequently the profound economic impact of the project will help McPherson continue to recruit residents, businesses, and industry.

These are exciting times as we welcome the beginning of a new chapter for water sustainability in McPherson and its surrounding areas.”  Stated BPU General Manager Josh Bedel.

Mayor Tom Brown stated, “McPherson has been fortunate to have experienced tremendous growth over the years. The McPherson Board of Public Utilities has been a significant factor in that success. They did this by not only thinking about what is good for McPherson today but also what McPherson will need tomorrow. This project is another example of their forward-thinking approach.”

The issue of water is a critical topic for the Kansas State Legislature. Two bills were recently passed with overwhelming success and were signed by the Governor. One will appropriate funds for water infrastructure projects, and the other will require groundwater management districts to submit annual reports to the legislature to provide accurate data. The impetus for these bills was the concerns over the dwindling aquifer in Western Kansas and the silting of the reservoirs in Eastern Kansas. McPherson BPU did not wait for its water supply to become dire before it acted. Spending time and resources, vetting out the perfect location.” Stated Kansas Senator Wilborn.

The water quality associated with this new supply source will require additional treatment before distribution into BPU’s public water supply system. The new primary treatment will include iron and manganese removal through Greensand filtration. Finished water from the new treatment facility will be blended with current groundwater supplies and introduced into the distribution system through the existing High Service Pump Station. By implementing the South Well Field Project, demands on the aquifer within the over-appropriated aquifer areas in and around the McPherson area will be reduced. In addition, the project will provide additional water supply to maintain the current economy and have sufficient water supply to allow for continued economic growth.

SWF Project Background

McPherson’s Challenge:

Due to its industrial growth over the years McPherson has been and continues to be a driver in employment in the region and State thanks to the fifty-plus manufacturers that call McPherson home. Although the growth has been a blessing, it also presents a challenge to the Equus Beds Aquifer, McPherson’s water source, which has been on the decline for many decades, so much so that the State of Kansas though the Division of Water Resources established the Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area (IGUCA) in 1980 to restrict additional water right development due to the declining aquifer levels. The IGUCA affects a 56-square-mile area around McPherson and includes BPU’s existing wellfield. A Kansas Geological Survey determined the safe yield of the IGUCA to be 10,000 AFY, with actual current demand averaging 12,000 AFY.

Solution:

Water, being essential for human and animal consumption, agriculture, industry, and recreation, is a critical driver of sustained human occupancy and economic growth. Faced with the reality of a declining water supply McPherson Stakeholders acted. Knowing that water scarcity would squelch future economic growth, leadership at the McPherson BPU vetted out several water sources to determine which would provide the best long-term solution. Ultimately, water rights were secured in an area south of McPherson. That area is now referred to as the South Well Field (SWF) and is in a sustainable portion of the Equus Beds Aquifer, approximately 18 miles south of McPherson. After securing the water rights, the Utility spent years working with engineers and consultants to develop a design and plan to apply those rights for beneficial use. The SWF Project is a collection of projects which involves developing three new public water supply wells, installing approximately 20 miles of a new 20” water transmission piping, and a new water treatment facility, which is the project that brings us here today. Work is near completion for the full development of a well field; the pipeline construction started in May 2023; with the entire SWF Project, including the water treatment plant, expected to be completed by end of 2024.