By Hutchinson News, July 4
With much fanfare on July 1, the Kansas Water Office released the much anticipated first draft of its water vision for the next 50 years. But it’s a “working document,” and there are yet more meetings scheduled to discuss the plan. Additional tweaks are likely before a final draft is adopted.
Mapping a course for water usage in the state, and most importantly the ever-shrinking Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas, over the next 50 years is a lofty goal and a hard one to achieve. As it currently stands, subject to those tweaks, the plan boils down to a target of 20 percent per-capita reduction in water consumption by 2035 while continuing to increase economic growth.
This needs to happen. Gov. Sam Brownback has made it an imperative for the state and has been one of the biggest champions of the cause. That’s a bit unlike him, being one who favors less government rather than more. It shows how important this is.
The problem started back in the 1940s and ’50s when farmers in western Kansas started irrigating corn in the dry, arid region once referred to as the Great American Desert. It turned the region into an economic force in the state.
Although the Ogallala Aquifer is huge, pumping that much water out of it over that length of time has depleted it to the point that by 2064 about 70 percent of it will be gone, according to Brownback. He said the status quo is not an option. He’s right.
It’s not just irrigators, either. The plan calls for reduced water consumption by the entire state. Everyone needs to do his part. The plan also calls for the dredging of numerous reservoirs that have silted in over time. That will allow for storage of more much-needed water.
There will be other rounds of meetings throughout the state before the final plan is revealed in November at the Governor’s Water Conference.
Let’s hope this time something comes of the plight of the Ogallala Aquifer. It’s been talked about for decades, but nothing of substance has come from the talk.
This time, action is imperative. Time, and water, is running out.