E-News for Oct. 26, 2020
10/26/2020 - Weekly KRWA E-News
KRWA Launches Apprentice Program
Over the next decade, the water sector is expected to lose between 30 and 50 percent of its workforce to retirement. Water and Wastewater System Operators help provide safe drinking water to millions of Kansans and protect our natural waterways. Without properly trained personnel in these roles communities will suffer. To combat disproportionate retirement KRWA has partnered with the National Rural Water Association to develop an Apprenticeship Program that will offer two new career paths – Water System Operation Specialist and Wastewater System Operation Specialist. KRWA is pleased to announce the first such apprentice, Clint Bivens, who is training with the city of Sabetha. During training, apprentices will work alongside professional operators, learn skills that can be taken anywhere, and earn a wage while they learn. Many Water and Wastewater Operators in Kansas have worked at the same utility for most of their career. With retirement, they will depart with decades of valuable institutional knowledge. These training programs will offer member systems a way to pass down and retain critical skills and knowledge of their water and wastewater systems to the next generation of industry workers. If you are interested in registering as an Apprentice or becoming a Participating Member System contact our Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Monica Wurtz by E-mail or by telephone at (785) 262-7301.
Groundbreaking Held for Wichita's New Northwest Water Treatment Facility
The city of Wichita last week held a special ceremonial groundbreaking for the Northwest Water Treatment Facility. Representatives from the City, Wichita Water Partners, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency were on-site to speak about the project. The new water plant will also supply water to Andover, Bel Aire, Benton, Derby, Park City, Kechi, Rose Hill and Valley Center. “This is the most important thing that public funding can be used for in today’s world for economic development and securing the future of the south-central Kansas region for our children and grandchildren. This a long-term, multi-year, multi-decade kind of project. It is the most important thing that we could be doing for our businesses and manufacturers and our households,” said Derby City Manager Kathy Sexton. The new water plant is expected to be operational by 2025. [source]
City of Lawrence Details Utility Assistance Program
The Lawrence coronavirus utility assistance program will help residents cover utility bills incurred between Mar. 1 and Dec. 10, and will begin accepting applications on Nov. 1. Applicants will need proof of being a residential utility customer, proof or certification of not being able to pay utilities due to a loss/reduction of income due to the economic impact of COVID-19, and proof of economic need. Specifically, a household’s pre-COVID-19 income must have been less than 80% of the area’s average median income, or a household can affirm eligibility if it is receiving benefits through other programs, such as Medicaid. The annual income limit is $49,500 for one person, $56,600 for a household of two, $63,650 for a household of three, $70,700 for a household of four, and $76,400 for a household of five. Residents whose income exceeds the threshold are still eligible to apply to the program, but those at or below 80% average median income will be prioritized. As of Oct. 20, the city of Lawrence reported 3,359 active utility accounts with a balance more than 21 days past due, totaling about $1.04 million in delinquent payments. [source]
Second Public Hearing Scheduled for Wichita County LEMA Plan
The Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources has scheduled a second public hearing to be held on Nov. 20, in Leoti to consider a proposed Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA) management plan for Wichita County. Western Kansas GMD No. 1 has recommended the approval of the LEMA management plan which was found acceptable for consideration by the Acting Chief Engineer of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Following the initial public hearing held Aug. 14, it was determined that the three initial requirements for approval of the LEMA plan are satisfied. This second public hearing will consider whether the proposed corrective control provisions in the LEMA plan are sufficient, and whether the plan shall be accepted or rejected or if modifications should be proposed. The virtual-hybrid hearing will provide the opportunity for in-person oral statements as well as virtual participation online. [source]
City of Topeka Repeals Ordinance Allowing Non-Plumbers to do Licensed Work
An ordinance, approved by the Topeka city council in August, allowed other contractors such as excavators to do work that’s typically required to be done by licensed plumbers. Although the change only affected industrial and commercial projects, and not residential work, the amendment came under fire from local plumbers. [source]
Registration Open for Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas
Registration for the 2020 Virtual Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water Kansas, which takes place Nov. 9 and 10, is now open and free for attendees. The conference brings together scientists, water managers, state and federal officials and legislators, city and county administrators, environmental organizations and citizens who share an interest in Kansas water resources. Conference topics include surface and groundwater Issues, research, infrastructure, as well as Kansas Water Vision and Kansas Water Plan progress. Additional information, including a proposed agenda, can be found on the KWO website.
Dust Bowl 2.0? Rising Great Plains Dust Levels Stir Concerns
Earlier this month, a storm front swept across the Great Plains of the United States, plowing up a wall of dust that could be seen from space, stretching from eastern Colorado into Nebraska and Kansas. It was a scene straight from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when farmers regularly saw soil stripped from their fields and whipped up into choking blizzards of dust. According to a new study, dust storms on the Great Plains have become more common and more intense in the past 20 years, because of more frequent droughts in the region and an expansion of croplands. “Our results suggest a tipping point is approaching, where the conditions of the 1930s could return,” says Gannet Haller, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah who led the study. [source]
Mexico Reaches Deal to Pay Water Debt to US
Mexico last week announced it had reached a deal with the United States, in accordance with a 1944 treaty, to pay the shortfall in its annual contribution of water from border-area rivers by giving the U.S. Mexico’s rights to water held in border dams that normally supply cities and towns downstream. Mexico was embarrassed when, over the summer, angry farmers in the border state of Chihuahua has seized a key dam there and refused to allow any more water transfers to the United States, claiming they needed the water for their own crops. Mexican officials had worried their water debt could have become an issue in the upcoming U.S. elections. Mexico said it still had enough water in other dams near the border to satisfy drinking water requirements for 13 border towns including Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros. The United States has agreed to help Mexico if it faces a municipal water shortage. [source]
Danbury Renames Sewage Plant After Late Night Celebrity
A Connecticut town has renamed it's sewage plant after a playful feud between its mayor and popular HBO “Last Week Tonight” host, John Oliver. The feud began brewing after Oliver’s jabs at the town during an August segment. “This will make Mr. Oliver No. 1 in the No. 2 business in Danbury,” Council President Joe Cavo said in recommending the name to his fellow councilors. The council was plastered with letters of support from around the world, plus more than 60 letters from city residents pleading with the council “not to Danbury this up,” echoing one of the comedian’s jabs. Many sincerely hoped the Oliver sign could turn into a new tourist destination. The name change was approved by an 18-1 vote with one abstention. [source]
The city of Independence declared a water emergency last week in order to reduce usage from the Verdigris River. Communities and rural water districts may want to dust off and review their water conservation plans. Degradation of drought conditions across the High Plains was widespread last week, including Kansas, where dry weather combined with recent warm, dry, and windy conditions, led to continued loss of near surface moisture. As streamflow diminishes and ponds go dry, these worsening conditions may put additional strain on rural water districts and community water systems. Livestock producers, in particular, are beginning to look for alternate supplies of water. Conditions based on the last 30 days of precipitation are particularly concerning, with little expectations for significant recovery within the next three months, as extreme drought expands eastward from the rocky mountains. Ten large wildfires continued to burn in Colorado last week, including the 208,663 acre Cameron Peak wildfire, the largest in Colorado history, burning in the Roosevelt National Forest west of Fort Collins. The northern parts of the Cameron Peak fire saw 12 inches of snow Sunday, bringing much needed relief. Fire officials expect the snow to significantly decrease fire activity “in the short term,” but said extended precipitation will be needed to fully extinguish the fire. Fire activity could increase again this week as temperatures rise and the areas start to dry out again.
Current U.S. Drought Monitor maps for:
Arkansas River Basin, High Plains Region, North-Central Region, Southern Plains Region and State of Kansas