Cities Are Using Depleted Aquifers for Water Storage Areas
Because of the drought, water use in Wichita, KS is running 40% above normal. The city has devised a plan to store excess water in times of plenty for use when things are dry.
Wichita gets much of its water from the Little Arkansas River, which because of the drought is bone dry.The plan for the future, which will cost half a billion dollars, is to remove water from the Little Arkansas when it has plenty of water and pump the water to a treatment facility, clean it up, then dump it into the aquifer from which the city draws water. The water is then pumped from aquifer and sent to Wichita water customers.
Pumping back into the aquifer, which currently supplies 40% of Wichita’s water, is considered a very cheap alternative as compared with building an above-ground reservoir. Apparently, no consideration has been made of how drawing water from the Little Arkansas will affect downstream users.
Aquifer recharging is actually becoming a popular strategy for water management. The great advantage is that the aquifer becomes a natural storage area for water without the expense of reservoir construction.
Other benefits of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) programs include: reduced overall operation costs, increased water yields by minimizing evaporation losses, improved water quality, and reducing impacts from long-term drought. ASR programs can also arrest subsidence and saltwater intrusion problems, and revive springs and river beds for human enjoyment and wildlife habitat.
Here is a larger view of a recharge system (click the picture for a larger version):