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Home » Missouri River wellfields best option for future
Lincoln’s second source of water would be new well fields along the Missouri River between Omaha and Nebraska City, with treated water going directly into the city.
That’s the recommendation of a 27-member advisory board for the city’s most important public works project of the 21st century, a massive undertaking that would secure enough water to power a growing city 20 years and decades into the future.
The second source of water is needed because the water supply from the city’s current system, which was built in 1932 and directs water to Lincoln from a well field in the Platte River near Ashland, is expected to be inadequate by 2050, when it does for the population the city is expected to break the 400,000 mark.
The Water 2.0 Council considered seven options — expanding the existing well field, an off-canal reservoir near the slab, connecting to the water supply of Omaha’s Metropolitan Utilities District, and four variants of a Missouri system that use surface water or a well field uses and pumps untreated water to Ashland or treated water to Lincoln.
The Missouri-Lincoln Wellfield, while expensive, estimated at $1.4 billion, is clearly the best option for a number of reasons. These include redundancy — it would allow the city to source water from outside the Platte Basin, important if flooding or climate change reduces supplies to that river — and maintaining Lincoln’s authority and control over his water system.
It’s also the best option in Missouri because it will be easier to implement, operate similarly to how the existing system works, and more importantly, will guarantee an adequate water supply into 2075 and beyond.
Funding must now begin in earnest for the new system, which will take 15 to 20 years to complete, an effort that began with Sen. Eliot Bostar’s LB506.
The bill would allocate $200 million from the federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund to get the project off the ground.
Bostar, co-chair of Water 2.0, rightly argues that Lincoln’s water supply is also a state matter, particularly because the city could “call on” the Platte River’s water if supplies there become scarce in the future, with dramatic repercussions the users of Platte would have been miles away from Ashland.
In fact, this connection between Lincoln’s water supply and the rest of the state is holding up the proposed “great lake” on the slab between Lincoln and Omaha until a feasibility study can determine the impact the lake would have on the state’s water supply to the two major cities that Obtain water from well fields in the area.
Assuming Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird approves the Missouri-Lincoln Wellfield option, Olsson, the engineering firm that worked with the advisory board, would use existing funds from a previous $20 million state allocation to spend up to two years spending time finding the best places to dig wells in the Missouri and initiating permitting processes and easements with the city.
The $200 million can then be used for planning and other steps to construct the well field and 50-mile pipeline that Lincoln must have as it grows in population, industry and water use over the next quarter century.
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