(WICHITA, Kan.) — When you see a spigot, you'd think it's for water. But at Rebecca Wells' house, it's more of a decoration. "We ran out of water two months ago," she said. That's right, Wells hasn't showered, washed dishes or done laundry at her home since July. "You don't realize how much you depend upon water until you don't have it," Wells said.
She and several others living near 127th street east and Harry have had their wells dry up. So a majority living on her block petitioned the city to install a water line. The city council approved it Tuesday. "We've moved as fast as we possibly can," said Chief Design Engineer for the City of Wichita Gary Janzen.
The council's decision means the city will spend $139,113 to install a water distribution line. That cost will be divided among the 12 property owners. They'll each pay $9,167 to run the line down their street. They'll be given 20 years to pay it back through a special assessment.
But that price only gets water onto the street. Each property owner also has to pay the city another $2,500 to tap the line. Then they'll pay a private plumber to run water from the street to their house. "At first we didn't want the additional expense. It will raise our taxes over a $1,000 a year. But now we don't have a choice," Well said.
Wells already spent $7,000 this summer drilling two other wells in hopes of finding water. The first came up dry and the second produced a black sludge like water. That well is still attached in order to flush the toilets. But Wells says it smells so bad they have to pour a bottle of bleach down the well each day.
The city says about 20 other homeowners across town have requested water service because their wells dried up too. Those property owners already have a water main line nearby, so they just have to pay the cost to attach it to their homes. "It was the long dry hot summer that really contributed to it," Janzen said.
He says they'll begin work on the new line for Wells' neighborhood before the end of the year. He says they're working as fast as possible, but it will likely be spring before the work is complete and Wells has water again.