Due to the declining aquifer around McPherson and the expected growth of McPherson, the Board of Public Utilities has been exploring how to increase water supplies for the city.
"Since the 1980s, several different water sources have been investigated; however, the most favorable option — in terms of water quality, supply life, and quantity— is located 20 miles straight south of McPherson,” said Tim Maier, BPU General Manager. The chosen source, coined the South Wellfield, is a groundwater source outside of the McPherson Intensive Ground Water Use Control Area (IGUCA).
At their board meeting on Dec. 2 the Board of Public Utilities voted to move forward with the development of the South Wellfield — and that will mean an increase in water rates.
A 15% rate adjustment was approved beginning in January 2020. According to the BPU, this initial rate adjustment will increase revenue enough to allow BPU to procure right of way for a 20-mile pipeline. The rate increase will result in an average hike of $5.25 per month for a residential customer.
The total project will consist of three new water supply wells, approximately 20 miles of pipe, and a treatment plant located in McPherson. The projected cost of this project is $27.6 million, which will result in an annual debt service of $1.72 million.
According to the BPU When the project is bonded, and construction of all phases are underway (estimated to be sometime in 2022), the average residential customer will see a $17 per month total increase on their water bill attributable to the project.
“The decision to proceed was not taken lightly as it will require a significant investment by the community,” Maier said. "Since receiving the water appropriation permits from the Division of Water Resources in November of 2017, the BPU has engaged in open dialog about McPherson's water situation with community. The overwhelming sentiment from those meetings was that the downward trend in the aquifer is hard to ignore and would be unsustainable at the current water consumption rate".