CHS refinery reduces water use to protect aquifer

Farm equipment in field in front of refinery

Mar 01, 2021

East of the Ogallala Aquifer lies the smaller Equus Beds Aquifer. About a half million people in south-central Kansas, including Wichita residents, rely on this aquifer for drinking water. Irrigation systems tap it to deliver water to thirsty crops.

For years, the CHS refinery at McPherson, Kan., also used the aquifer for some of the 3 million gallons of water it needs every day to heat and cool refinery processes that turn crude oil into diesel, gasoline and other products. 

By 2015, it became clear that aquifer water levels were declining. 

To reduce its demand on the aquifer, the CHS refinery opened a water treatment facility that allowed the refinery to use treated city wastewater instead of fresh groundwater from the aquifer. 

The treatment facility has reduced demand on the aquifer by 30%, says Alan Burghart, process engineering supervisor at McPherson, and the aquifer is recharging.

The unique partnership between CHS and the city of McPherson has gotten attention as an example of creative water management, says Burghart. “We’re proud to do our part in water conservation efforts to ensure the aquifer remains healthy and our communities have water for generations to come.” 

This article appeared as part of the cover story in C magazine. Read the full article to learn how growers are finding ways to get more from every drop of water.