The Tri-State Water resource Coalition held its annual conference recently in Springfield. Speakers addressed a wide range of topics relating to continuing the supply of water to the southwest Missouri area and the connecting region.
Pete Rauch, Monett utilities superintendent who heads the coalition's technical committee, said presentations were exceptional. He particularly enjoyed hearing details about the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System involving Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. Dave Oden, lead engineer for the system, explained striking similarities to the Missouri-Oklahoma-Kansas effort to share water that ends up in Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma.
Rauch said the northern states projects had advanced much farther than the local effort. The experience described by Oden offered a roadmap for what local coalition members will face in working out a water sharing agreement.
Kyle Arthur, director of the Oklahoma Water Board, agrees that the parties using Grand Lakes water and those wanting to use it should hold talks. The privately held Grand River Dam Authority and the Oklahoma state legislature, which opposing sharing water over state lines, still have not reached the point of serious conversations, Rauch said.
"It's all political," Rauch said. "The engineering is easy in comparison."
Roddy Rogers, who manages water distribution and supply for City Utilities in Springfield, made a PowerPoints presentation about getting water from a global view. Rogers has been to more than 20 counties facing natural disasters and worked on getting water to impacted areas. The audience gave Rogers a standing ovation for his talk, a first in the four years of annual conferences.
Christine Woltman, complex environmental manager for Tyson Foods plant in Noel, stood in for Rusty Bowsher, the plant manager for Tyson Foods in Monett, on a panel about the economics of water. Woltman spoke about how Tyson has saved money through conserving water use.
Bill Bryan, the deputy director for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), spoke about the state of Missouri's water supplies. Ryan Mueller, director of DNR's water resources center, spoke about water supply in the coalition's territory.
Other presenters spoke about regulations, comparing water and wastewater volumes in city systems, ground and surface water quality in the Ozarks, and competing uses for water.
Rauch said the coalition continues to seek long-term solutions to water supply issues. The Tri-State Water Resource Coalition remains the only group dedicated to securing water supply.
"Just because we have a good water supply now doesn't mean we will in 20 years," Rauch said.
The conference provided a valuable opportunity to network with others in the field. Rauch said the chance to share ideas and get acquainted with colleagues promotes collaboration when problems develop. Rauch praised the work of Gail Melgren, the new executive director for the coalition, for running a smooth and informative conference.
Melgren told The Times those attending the conference took away several main points:
* Water pollution and the lack of available water has created many problems globally and nationally.
"Our region is relatively water rich, but the earth is not endlessly generous, even here. Smart water planning must include proactively securing additional water supply for our region. This will protect and enhance our economic competitiveness and our quality of life," Melgren said.
* Population growth drives future water concerns locally. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center found the corridor of counties from Joplin and Neosho down to the Missouri/Arkansas border grew at a rate of 16.7 percent from 1990-2000, according to the last available census data. The Springfield to Branson corridor of counties grew at a rate of 27.14 percent during that same decade.
|* Inevitable drought cycles recall 2006 when wells were drying up. Population dense cities drawn more ground water for use, leaving a "cone of depression" in underground supplies. Cities were being||"We need to be ready when the next drought hits, which requires planning ahead for the future need," Melgren said.|
"Because water is so cheap it's been easy to wastewater, but water efficiency will become more important as our communities grow," Melgren continued. "Families, farmers and businesses should seek additional ways to use water wisely as that is our least expensive 'new' water for use, and it will extend the amount of time that the current supply will meet our needs.
Now in its eighth year, the coalition has become more sure of its mission and how to proceed, Rauch added.