Purchase photos

Water will flow to rural residents





Water lines are being constructed in the new trenches along Antonino Road south of Munjor, and for some rural Ellis County residents, it's a tangible sign their farms soon will have drinkable water.

Construction of the 12-mile pipeline project got underway last week, but for some members of Ellis County Water District 1-C of southwest and southern Ellis County, the water line expansion project has been in the works for years.

Laren and Sue Leiker started the ball rolling three years ago with a visit to the Kansas Rural Water Association in Seneca.

"We met with Elmer Ronnebaum and Rita Clary," Laren Leiker said. "Without their help, we definitely wouldn't have this project.

"They are the ones that really did all the leg work."

Laren Leiker, who along with Ernie Leiker, has served as sparkplug for the project, said he simply never gave up on the project.

"It took a lot of time, but it will be worth it in the long run," Laren Leiker said. "After three years of a lot of phone calling and a lot of extra time, it's finally happening.

"We'll be able to see family members relocate to farms and neighbors will get the water they've been hoping for."

Standing near the trench, Ernie Leiker paused Friday morning from working with other volunteers.

"Right now, most of the (volunteers) are in harvest, but starting next week, we'll start using different people every day," he said. "Right now, our lifesaver is CK Earthworks, Clem Karlin.

"He donated 2 miles of trenching, with operator and 40 hours of backhoe operator. He's experienced, so he's a big, big help."

The water main project is funded through the KAN STEP 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 the 11 meters.

KAN STEP requires residents to donate labor for construction of the project while the costs of materials, engineering, grant administration and assistance from the Kansas Rural Water Association are provided through the Department of Commerce.

At the helm of the project, Doug Guenther, technical assistant for KRWA, instructed volunteers Friday morning on the ins and outs of constructing the water line. Guenther has been studying project blueprints, and consulting the project engineer throughout the process.

"A lot of these guys have never worked with water projects, and I advise them, and I OK whatever we get done," he said. "This (water line) is going to be a great benefit."

It likely will be another three months before the 11 households slated for services will receive water from the new line. Many of those households have used water distillers to obtain safe drinking water or hauled water from other locations for drinking and cooking.

"The quality of water coming from Trego is so much better than they used to have from the old river alluvial," Guenther said. "It tastes good.

"It doesn't erode the fixtures. It doesn't plug up the water heater as fast. It's just a lot better water."

In the trenches, Austin and Loren Haselhorst both shoveled dirt from around the newly positioned water line. Loren Haselhorst said his farm, a bit south of the trench, long had been without water.

"We've been hauling our drinking water for the last 20 years," he said. "It will be nice to have good water for a change."