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Salina to buy water rights in Kanopolis Reservoir

SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- The city of Salina will join a new group that plans to buy water stored in the Kanopolis Reservoir for use during droughts.

The Salina City Commission voted Monday to join the new Lower Smoky Hill Water Supply Access District, a coalition of farmers and other users who will buy water from the reservoir.

The city will buy 4,660 acre-feet, at an estimated cost of $2.5 million, as well as $216,600 a year for 20 years and $27,960 a year for another 20 years, The Salina Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1eQkZxM ).

Martha Tasker, director of utilities, acknowledged to the council that determining how much water to buy was based on speculation about such things as the city's population in 50 years, the possible effects of climate change and how improved farming practices could reduce runoff.

"Typically, I like to bring a recommendation to you that's based on math and science," Tasker said. "This doesn't happen to be one of those."

Tasker said she estimated a daily per-person usage of 121 gallons, which is slightly higher than actual usage in 2013, and a population in Salina of 65,000 by 2060. She also calculated how much water the city would need under different scenarios, such as no natural river flow for an entire summer (4,660 acre-feet), and for an entire year (5,028 acre-feet).

The city currently has rights to 5,028 acre-feet a year from the river but only if it is flowing naturally, as well as 4,933 acre-feet from its wells. Tasker said if there were no river flow, the city would use all of the well water rights in about 200 days.

Irrigators in the water access district are so far planning to buy just less than 600 acre-feet, Tasker said.

Commissioner Aaron Householter said he was glad the city was buying access to the additional water but that he hoped it didn't lead to complacency about conservation.

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Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, http://www.salina.com