More than 600 farmers, ranchers, industry representatives, and community leaders joined Gov. Sam Brownback at meetings in Scott City and Garden City to discuss next steps in conserving and extending the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. The meetings included presentations from Kansas State University and Kansas Geological Survey staff members who shared information on groundwater projection and economic modeling.
"About two-thirds of our state's agricultural economic value come from the counties that are located above the Ogallala Aquifer," Brownback said. "Last summer more than 400 Kansans attended our Economic Summit on the Future of the Ogallala Aquifer. As a result of legislation that came out of that summit, Kansans now have many of the tools requested at the summit. I am here to encourage you and ask what you plan to do with these tools to conserve this vital resource."
Following stakeholder input, the Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Committee, Kansas Water Authority, Kansas Water Office and Kansas Department of Agriculture-Division of Water Resources developed recommendations which eventually resulted in six changes to water law.
Those changes eliminated the state's "use it or lose it" water policy; amended the multi-year flex accounts to expand irrigator's capabilities; amended the state's water banking program, extended the life of the Water Transition Assistance Program for 10 years; provided for Local Enhanced Water Management Areas with local decision making and codified the division of water right without loss of priority.
While the aquifer in many areas has been declining for decades, the intense drought has heightened the issue even more.
"A group of stakeholders in northwest Kansas called the Sheridan 6 have stepped out and have led their own effort to conserve and extend the water in their area," said Gary Harshberger, Kansas Water Authority and Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Committee Chair. "We are here to encourage this type of local leadership to be duplicated all over the Ogallala Aquifer and help establish other local enhanced management areas."