A report from the US Geological Survey shows that Wichita's water supply will be infiltrated with chloride contamination in as little as ten years unless action is taken.
The USGS partnered with the city of Wichita to do a study as part of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project.
The results of the study show a plume of chloride-contaminated water which is moving toward the city's Equus well fields. Geologist Brian Klager is a geologist with the USGS. "In the Burrton oil fields near Burrton, Kan., waste associated with the extraction of oil - a highly concentrated saltwater brine which is part of the process - was improperly disposed of in evaporation ponds. They didn't know at that time that the brine would leak into the aquifer."
Klager says that the Burrton plume, which covers about 30 square miles, is moving toward Equus at the rate of point 8 feet per day--which will put it within reach of the well fields in 10 to 20 years.
The study also shows that even if pumping from Equus for city drinking water use and irrigation was halted, the advance of the plume would not be stopped. One aspect of the solution to is recharge the groundwater, increasing the level by pulling, treating and then injecting water into the aquifer from the Little Arkansas River. "One of the goals that they have is to be prepared for a severe drought," says Klager. The one-cent sales tax which will be voted on in November would be the source of funding for the next phase of the water project.