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Wichita exploring gray water options

Published:Sunday | July 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Wichita exploring gray water options

AP File

Wichita city officials have been working to get local businesses to consider using treated sewer water that the city would typically dump into the Arkansas River.

Alan King, city public works director, said reusing water is an important part of conservation.

"It's a way for us to meet the future challenge of growth," King said. "It allows us to increase the amount of drought resiliency we have so that we're less susceptible to restrictions should we find ourselves in a future drought, and it gives us a way to do it for less money."

City officials want Wichita's big commercial water users to use some of the treated sewer water in the manufacturing process, The Wichita Eagle reports.

But he said rate structure and infrastructure are the two major challenges for using gray water. Switching some large customers to cheaper gray water would mean the city would lose some revenue. So until the growth catches back up, the city has to find ways to not pass on the cost to ratepayers for the lost revenue.

"It's kind of tricky," he said. "You have to craft a deal in such a way that you're covering all your costs and not affecting ratepayers and at the same time making it economically attractive to a potential user."

Gray water cannot be put into the same pipes or pumps as drinking water. But gray water is cleaner than the water already in the river where it's dumped, King said. But it's still not up to drinking water standards set by the state and federal government.

Water is also essential for manufacturers like Spirit AeroSystems, said Fred Malley, spokesman for Spirit, one of the companies in talks with the city. Spirit is Wichita's top commercial water user and used more than 565 million gallons last year, according to city data.

"You can't build airplane fuselages and other things without it," Malley said. "We're a big user of water. It's critical to our business and our production processes. We do a lot of recycling and we're always looking at ways to more efficiently use resources and manage the environmental impact."

AP