What we gleaned was that Larry Chappell, spokesperson for Black and Veatch Engineering of Kansas City, the recipient of $200,000 put up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Tri-State Water Resource Coalition (15 members from six counties in Missouri, two counties in Kansas and one county in Oklahoma), said nothing earth-shattering about the immediate solution to the area's problems.
Chappell apparently did report findings suggesting that by 2050 the population in the area is expected to be one half million people needing an additional 66 million gallons of water per day with an added 132 million gallons per day treatment during peak summer usage, and that no Corps lake had storage to meet these demands. (We're not sure how this population figure was determined since most of our local graduates seem to be leaving the area as soon as they get their degrees.)
On their list of suggestions, just like what was presented at their first meeting when they said they did not have their study finished, was the notion that the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), which manages the Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, send water back to Missouri even though Oklahoma still has a moratorium on transporting water into another state. Apparently, Oklahoma doesn't see the irony in making Missourians in part have to drink the water their run-off affects.
After having to admit that Truman Lake was too far away and that water from Stockton Lake couldn't be borrowed since the City of Springfield already has first dibs on it, the study apparently concluded that Table Rock Lake's discretionary storage of 35 million gallons a day could be tapped by a not so inexpensive project of pumping it up and over a ridge to get to the Southwest Missouri area. The last alternative mentioned would be the creation of a new source although apparently determination of its size, uses, exact location, and cost apparently was not included in the $200,000 fee.
Bill Miller, whose name has become associated with obtaining positive results for e coli after sampling several selected Newton County stream test sites, asked if there had been any discussion of contaminants in the water supply and was told no, that it had been discussed in an earlier study done in 2000 by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. He also asked if there had been any emphasis for cities to conserve water usage but was told that conservation was not a focus of the study. He asked specifically if any attention had been paid to the amount of water used by the poultry industry in the area because they are major users or whether the coalition had thought of metering their use, charging them so that money could be put into escrow for the use of individuals such as himself having to have deeper wells drilled to reach water.
Someone in the crowd mentioned that Missouri was a riparian state with no control over water usage, and as May Belle Osborne reported, " everybody giggled--like, oh well, there's nothing that can be done about it. We'll just use the water and then we will find more, somewhere, somehow."
Miller, apparently bugged by the lack of teeth in the study's findings, was said to have monopolized most of the question and answer forum but without receiving the answers he wanted to hear.
Answering another audience member's question, Bob Nichols, coalition president, did indicate the need to consider water allocation due to the aquifer's dropping water table. However, the suggestion was received with little enthusiasm, and, as we were told, the powers that be in Jefferson City care little about water problems to provide legislative relief for those contributing to less than 20% of Missouri's population .
So, what are the next steps for the Tri-state Water Coalition? Some of the water providers may want to re-evaluate whether or not to participate further or drop out. We heard that short term supply needs would take 10 to 20 years to implement, but then we remember hearing a similar estimate in 2002 when a Joplin metro area ground water study done by the American Missouri Water Company determined that there would be a groundwater shortage in about 15 years within a drought period.
Nichols told the audience that the coalition would be looking into financial resources for further study. What would these groups do without all that grant money out there? Maybe, they'd have to come up with some answers!
Mark Adams and May Belle Osborne contributed to this commentary. Readers interested in this issue might mark their calendars on November 8th when the United States Geological Survey will reveal a model they are developing to look at water usage in this area. It will take place at 7 p.m. in the Student Union on the campus of Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KS.