The City of Wichita's Water Utility draws water from two sources: Cheney Reservoir and the Equus Beds aquifer. Keeping these two sources healthy and available for future generations takes continuous work. The City invested about $250 million in the Aquifer Recovery and Storage (ASR) project, which takes extra water from the Arkansas River during high flows, treats it to drinking water quality, and stores it in the underground Equus Beds aquifer. Unfortunately, this "water savings account" was opened for business at the start of the current drought. ASR is still a good project and an important component of ensuring Wichita's future water supply, but hasn't had much of an impact on helping us get through the current drought.
Protecting Cheney Reservoir
Past efforts to ensure the long-term viability of Cheney Reservoir included building a series of ponds in the Cheney watershed to reduce the amount of silt flowing into the lake. This has minimized sedimentation to the point where only 5% of Cheney Reservoir's total storage capacity has been lost, a percentage far lower than what many reservoirs in Kansas have experienced. The City has also continued to tweak the percentage of overall demand that is being pulled from Cheney Reservoir and the Equus Beds aquifer, including recently in response to the current drought. The City is now pulling 40% of our overall water from Cheney while pulling the remaining 60% from the Equus Beds aquifer.
One of the best ways to prolong the life of our two water sources is through conservation, a message the City has been educating water customers on since the early 1990's. A voluntary conservation program has been offered for 22 years and has recently expanded to include a rebate program in 2013.