New water source worth considering

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Our Opinion

By Dave Bell

With the Kaskaskia River shrinking to a trickle and Vandalia Lake levels dropping due to this summer’s drought, it’s a prime time to think about alternative water sources. Add to those woes the ongoing problems the city has had keeping its river intake functioning, and the possibility of another source is particularly attractive.
It is against that backdrop that the Vandalia City Council’s water and sewer committee on Monday heard a proposal about such an alternative source of water from Walt Barenfanger and Jeff Beckman. The men, under the name of Kaskaskia Springs Water Co., have drilled 10 test wells in the area, and believe that they’ve tapped into a sizeable aquifer – one that could provide up to 1 million gallons of water per day.
Their studies have been corroborated by the Illinois State Water Survey.
Aside from the fact that it’s a new, reliable source of water, the aquifer water appears to be much cleaner than the water drawn from either the lake or the river. That would reduce the costs of treating the water, because fewer chemicals would be needed to remove impurities, Barenfanger said.
The city would do well to look into the proposal offered by the men. Having a reliable, clean and plentiful source of water is a key element in the community’s ability to grow. And it’s a significant quality-of-life issue for residents.
As always, care must be taken to make sure that the proposal makes sense from all angles before the city launches into a partnership. Water tests must be performed to determine the cleanliness and hardness of the water, and to confirm the actual costs involved in preparing the water. Further, city officials must have adequate assurance that the project won’t affect existing wells in the area. Barenfanger recommended starting the project in a small section of the aquifer near Thrill Hill, but we also need to have an idea of the impact on local water tables if a high-volume water using industry became interested in moving to Vandalia.
At first glance, the project has many upsides. It certainly gives us an attractive alternative to the lake water, which has been costly to treat, and the river water, which has been nearly impossible to get with the current system’s silting problems.
Let’s just make sure we do the necessary due diligence research as the city moves closer to inking and agreement with the water company.