Where Does Wichita Get its Water?
Readily available, clean water is something that most of us take for granted. We know that when we turn on a sink, water will come out. Our sprinklers will always produce water for our lawns, and there’s always a warm shower waiting at home after a long day at after work. But this water doesn’t make its way to us on its own. Instead, it goes through a very specific process on conveyance, treatment, and distribution. Here’s a closer look at where Wichita’s water comes from.
Wichita's Major Water Sources
The City of Wichita gets its water from a few major sources, utilizing surface water from Cheney Reservoir and groundwater from the Equus Beds wellfield near Halstead, as well as a few local wells, Don Henry, Wichita's Assistant Director of Public Works & Utilities says.
By drawing water from two sources, Wichita’s Public Works and Utilities department is able to utilize resources in most efficient way, to conserve water for droughts, and to maximize efficiencies.
How Does it Get Here?
Water that comes from Cheney is pumped to Wichita through a 60 inch water line. This line is approximately 25 miles long, and it takes about 24 hours for the water to reach its next destination, the water treatment plant.
Water from the Equus Bed wellfield is pumped to Wichita through a 66 inch water line. This line is also close to 25 miles long, and it also takes 24 hours to reach the water treatment plant.
Water Treatment Plants
Wichita’s original water treatment plant, now known as the east plant, was built in the 1940’s. It was later expanded, and what is now the central plant was built in the 1950’s. Water is treated at the central plant year round, accommodating the wintertime demand of 45 million gallons per day, and helping to accommodate the peak summertime demand of up to 120 million gallons per day. This spike in demand is a result of the use of seasonal utilities like irrigation systems and pools during the summer. In mid-March, Public Works and Utilities crews bring the east plant back on line to allow for maintenance work to take place at the central plant on areas that are typically under water, and ultimately to prepare to meet the tremendous summer demands. The east plant closes annually at the conclusion of the irrigation system. Wichitans consume an annual average of 60 million gallons of water per day.
The Water Treatment Process
Before it can be sent to our taps, our water must go through a lime-softening process. That means that, once the source water is blended, lime and polymer are added to soften and settle out solids. After this, the settled water is filtered, and filtered water is disinfected with chloramines. Now it’s ready to be sent to consumers.
After water has been treated, it is held in underground storage tanks before being pumped out of the distribution center and right to your faucet! Two water towers, one located at Wichita State University, and the other near 21st Street and Woodlawn, provide additional storage and flexibility for efficient delivery of water.
So, the next time you take a shower, wash your hands, or go for a swim, take a moment to acknowledge all of the hard work that was required to bring that water to you.