A comprehensive system approach will be used to increase water supply and drought tolerance. Conservation is one solution to consider. Municipal water suppliers in the Marais des Cygnes River basin have adopted conservation plans that reduce consumption during drought in addition to looking at more ways to efficiently manage their reservoir system as another water savings.
The three federal reservoirs in this region have minimum release schedules that provide downstream flow if it is needed. Reservoir minimum release schedules were based on a study by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1963. At the time of the construction of these reservoirs, readily available continuous monitoring of downstream flows was not feasible. With the current framework, such as the Marais des Cygnes River Water Assurance District Operations Agreement and real-time flow data, it’s been concluded the Kansas Water Office would prefer the low-flow release scheme for this system to make releases to meet a downstream target when necessary rather than continuous minimum releases. KWO modeling and experience in operations through recent droughts have shown there is water saving opportunities in system management. Unallocated storage in Melvern Lake is also in the long term plan to provide additional water supply storage to meet municipal and industrial demands.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) notified the KWO of money available in the 2016 budget for reallocation studies and preliminary work began to study the potential for reallocating additional conservation storage in Melvern to municipal/Industrial water supply.
The Melvern Lake M&I Water Supply Reallocation Study, Initial Assessment report was completed by the USACE in January 2017. The Melvern reallocation study is on-going, pending additional federal funding. It is a multi-year project and incorporates the evaluation of system operations (including minimum release schedules) as part of the study. Currently, modeling shows that we do not need additional water supply storage from Melvern Lake beyond 2050. However, the USACE has insufficient water quality storage. Creating additional water quality storage has an uncertain path, and it is hoped that topic will be addressed as part of the reallocation study.
Reallocation studies are 100% federally funded. However, some of the cost is passed on to the state and water users through O&M commitments per existing storage contracts. There is a significant amount of additional analysis related to in-stream flow needs of the Marais des Cygnes River and Bull Creek below Hillsdale Lake but cost has not yet been determined. The goal will be to fund as much as possible through the reallocation study and use expertise within cooperating state and federal agencies to complete the necessary assessments.