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Group considers reservoirs for southwest Missouri

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | 8:28 p.m. CDT; updated 9:01 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 8, 2009

MONETT — A group trying to lock in future water supplies for southwest Missouri is considering three potential reservoirs, but emphasizes that building new reservoirs is a low priority.

Members of the Tri-State Water Resource Coalition said Tuesday that though they are considering three reservoir sites, they hope to draw more than 124 million gallons a day from existing reservoirs in the future, enough to supply the region's projected water needs through 2050.

Those existing reservoirs are Table Rock Lake and Stockton Lake in Missouri, and Grand Lake O' the Cherokees in Oklahoma.

"You can't wait until your wells are sucking air before you settle on a long-term plan," said Pete Rauch, a Tri-State member and utilities manager for the city of Monett. "But we can't stress enough that building new reservoirs is not a high priority with us."

The coalition was formed in 2002 after a study showed southwest Missouri's groundwater resources wouldn't meet future demand. The coalition includes representatives from Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Members said any new reservoirs would face high construction costs, concerns about harming wildlife, displacing people and taking land through eminent domain. It could also take up to 20 years to develop new reservoirs in southwest Missouri.

The Tri-State group and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources split the $200,000 cost of the reservoir siting study.

John Rutledge, of the Texas-based consulting firm Freese and Nichols, detailed the study's findings Tuesday. He said 14 sites were identified but only three were recommended for further study.

Their development costs compared favorably with the estimated $200 million cost of pumping and treating water from the three major existing reservoirs.

The Tri-State group now hopes to commission a more in-depth study of the three potential lake sites, while continuing to press for water allocations from the three major reservoirs.


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