Water Plan Urgently Needed in Kansas
KSAL Staff - November 5, 2013 10:26 am
The Kansas City Star:
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is looking out for the long-term interests of Kansas by calling for a long-term plan to manage the state’s water supplies.
Long-term drought and overuse are drying up the Ogallala Aquifer, the vast underground lake that enables Kansas and seven other states to turn arid fields into productive farmland. At the current rate of pumping, the aquifer will be 70 percent depleted by 2060, according to a recent Kansas State University study. Man-made reservoirs around Kansas are also stressed.
At a well-attended conference last month, Brownback called for water interests to draw up a 50-year management plan.
“We can talk these issues to death, but without vision we won’t be able to address these priorities,” the governor correctly said.
The agricultural industry has made progress with water efficiencies such as water irrigation technology and crop genetics. But those measures don’t come close to closing the gap between use and replenishment of underground water supplies.
A 2012 Kansas law enables groups of farmers within a groundwater management district to come up with their own conservation plans. So far only one group has done so, however. A more comprehensive strategy is called for, one that includes conservation goals with more muscle, and encouragement for farmers to convert to crops, like wheat and cotton, which require less water than corn.
Brownback has shown strong leadership by putting water issues high on his policy agenda. However, a test of his commitment to conservation may be in the works.
The governor and his agricultural secretary, Dale Rodman, want to loosen restrictions on corporate farming in Kansas. The public would need more information on how that economic development goal meshes with smarter water use.
When priorities conflict, water conservation holds the trump card. Kansas won’t be fit for farming or much of anything if it allows its repositories to go dry.
Opinion from: The Kansas City Star