Water conservation goes to local hands

Gov. Sam Brownback chose Colby, where the negotiation for the landmark legislation started, as the site of a ceremonial signing of a bill designed to conserve the state’s water supply and extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.

Senate Bill 310 establishes a process that allows local communities of producers, working through groundwater management districts, or GMDs, to collectively decide their future by initiating the implementation of conservation plans that meet their local goals.

Brownback encouraged GMDs to begin identifying places where “local enhanced management areas,” or LEMAs, may be a good fit.

“We must conserve our water so we can extend the useful life of the Ogallala Aquifer,” Brownback said.

“This tool allows Kansans to join together and offer up ideas that work on the local level. It allows them to work together on behalf of their children and grandchildren to provide solutions that will save water for the next generation.”

Key Points

• Gov. Sam Brownback signs a water conservation bill in Colby.

• The bill puts the control of extending the Ogalalla Aquifer in local hands.

• High-priority area in district No. 4 already working toward LEMA.

Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter, Groundwater Management District No. 4 manager Wayne Bossert, Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources chief engineer Dave Barfield, as well as legislators and stakeholder groups, joined Brownback for the bill signing.

“The Local Enhanced Management Areas are an option that Kansans asked for, and we already have a Groundwater Management District moving forward with a LEMA proposal,” Barfield said.

Work on reforming the state’s water laws began a year ago, when the Brownback administration started planning the Ogallala Aquifer Water Summit. Hundreds of Kansans concerned about the future of the state’s water supply and the future of their children and grandchildren attended that summit in Colby. From there, the Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Committee reviewed short- and long-term water goals. Then the Kansas Water Authority developed the water reform legislative agenda presented to the Kansas Legislature for its consideration.

“Agriculture is key to the economic vitality of Kansas, and water is essential to agriculture production,” Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman said. “The governor’s 2011 water legislation package was an important step towards creating water policy that benefits agriculture today and sustains the valuable water resources for future generations.”

Streeter said this law is a true example of how when Kansans work to-gether, they can find solutions.

“This legislation proves the stakeholder input process really does work,” Streeter said. “The Kansas Water Office will continue to work with the Kansas Water Authority and the Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Committee to identify and evaluate further policy considerations.”

Bossert offered thanks to the many stakeholders who were involved in the effort to the legislation accomplished, but especially to the stakeholders within the Sheridan County high-priority area of his GMD.

“These folks had the vision to see a different resource future than the status quo, the tenacity to roll up their sleeves and dig in, and the courage to ask the system for a new tool when they felt there was a better way to get where all thought we were headed,” Bossert said.

Others involved in the process included additional groundwater management districts, the Division of Water Resources, the Kansas Water Office, the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association and the Kansas Feed and Grain Association.

This article published in the June, 2012 edition of KANSAS FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.