Residents stepping toward water supply
By DAWNE LEIKER
Members of Ellis County Rural Water District 1-C are moving forward with a 10- to 12-mile water main project that will benefit customers of the district and allow for expansion of the entire system.
The water district, which serves southwest and southern Ellis County, has been working toward the project through the Kansas Department of Commerce's KanStep program, a program that involves "sweat equity" from local residents to make improvements to facilities that might otherwise be unfeasible.
Trego County Rural Water District No. 2, supplier of water for the Ellis County district, has approved the addition of 11 meters.
The households proposed for the new services include a few homesteads more than 100 years old. Two households have used water distillers to obtain several gallons of safe drinking water each day; three have hauled water for drinking and cooking for decades. Several applicants anticipate building new home sites.
According to Corina Cox of Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission, the KanStep project is now in the design phase. After the design is complete and approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, specified materials can be bid.
Bidding, she said, is estimated to occur in March, with construction possible as soon as late April.
Counties applying for the KanStep grant can request up to $300,000 for improvements, which can account for 60 percent of the project with 40 percent of the total project costs coming from volunteers and donated equipment.
In May, a Kansas Department of Commerce representative gave a thumbs up to the project after he met with members of the water district and was satisfied there was "adequate enthusiasm, interest and volunteerism to proceed with the next steps -- hiring an engineer to prepare the 60/40 cost estimate and begin the environmental review," Cox said.
In the meantime, easements to lay water lines have been sought, and an environmental review was completed. In October, Ellis County received notification of a grant award for $299,685.
In late January, Stuart Porter of Schwab-Eaton, Beloit, met with district members and began drafting preliminary plans.
Harvey Ruder, president of Ellis County Rural Water District 1-C, told district members at a February water district meeting Trego County water district members said they would not approve any further meters beyond those designated for the KanStep program due to their limited pumping capacity.
Drought stress last summer led to nearly constant pumping of a large well.
"And they're very concerned that if that well goes down, the two smaller wells will not keep up," John Moeder told members of the Ellis County water district. "That's why they've asked to not accept any new meters at this point until they get some more wells."