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KU Conference Provides In-depth Look at Water

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The 61


Environmental Engineering Conference gave special attention to a life-sustaining substance – water.

The conference, coordinated by Professor Stephen Randtke and other engineering faculty at the University of Kansas School of Engineering, drew hundreds of practicing engineers, policy makers and students to the Kansas Union in April to discuss a variety of topics affecting the health of the planet.

Presenters included keynote speaker Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.  Mulroy described the special situation framing decisions in seven Western states, all part of the Colorado River Compact of 1922.  The states originally based the water rights on agricultural use.

“There are no farmers in Nevada,” Mulroy quipped. “The only farmers are golfers.”

Since the development of the compact, which created the largest manmade watershed in America, and subsequent agreements, weather and usage have conspired to make water management even more crucial.

As California took the lead in conservation efforts, Las Vegas and southern Nevada experienced exponential growth.  Moreover, hydrological measurements used to project water available to compact states were collected during a high-water period.

Since 2002, the region has experienced a severe drought.

“My new rule is, if it’s not probably, it will happen.,” Mulroy said.

The water basin includes Lake Powell and Lake Mead, both of which show “bath tub rings” left by the receding waters.

Mulroy explained the region has had to find creative ways to manage water usage, including meeting with partner states to resolve issues. Las Vegas, she added, is the only city to recycle 100 percent of its wastewater.

The conference also included presentations of dam and reservoirs infrastructure in Kansas, landfill gas-to-energy projects, energy efficient wastewater treatment, sustainable solid waste management and more.

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