Water Matters, Big Time

More than 400 turn out for Gov. Sam Brownback's Economic Summit on the Future of the Ogallala Aquifer.

Published on: Jul 25, 2011

Kansans have made it clear that water matters.

More than 400 people from across the state, but primarily from western Kansas, joined Gov. Sam Brownback in Colby on July 21 for an Economic Summit on the Future of the Ogallala Aquifer.

"It is important that any solutions have the direction and support of the people interacting with this resource everyday," Brownback told summit attendees. "I'm here to hear from you. "

The Ogallala Aquifer is the main source of water for all uses in the western third of the state. Counties located above the Ogallala Aquifer account for roughly 2/3 of the state's agricultural economic value.

"This discussion about the Ogallala Aquifer is key to the economic future of our state," Brownback said. "Without Ogallala water, agriculture and all of its related businesses could not be sustained, manufacturing could not continue, recreational opportunities would diminish and the towns in the area would cease to exist."

At the Summit, the Governor led a roundtable discussion where he listened and discussed with the attendees incentives aimed at conserving and extending the life of the aquifer while also enhancing the Western Kansas economy.

Brownie Wilson, Kansas Geological Survey; Bill Golden, Kansas State University, and Joseph Aistrup, Kansas State University were on the panel along with Kansas Ag Bankers representative Matt Lee; Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Assoc. & Co-op Council representative Stan Stark; Kansas Dairy Association and Kansas Livestock Association representative Ted Boersma; Kansas Farm Bureau representative Steve Baccus; League of Kansas Municipalities representatives Carolyn Armstrong, Colby City Manager and Carl Brewer, League of Kansas Municipalities President; Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance representative Neal Gillespie and Western Manufacturer's representative Andy Davis.

Following the roundtable, the stakeholders broke into small group input sessions to provide their ideas about the Ogallala.

"We are interested in hearing ideas about incentives for conservation that can be provided and disincentives that can be removed," Brownback said. 

One issue discussed at the Summit was the "use it or lose it" concept in Kansas water law as a possible disincentive for conservation. All information and opinions presented at the Summit were recorded and will be incorporated in future discussions leading to long-term solutions for the Ogallala Aquifer.

"We're really pleased with the input we received today," said Kansas Water Office Executive Director Tracy Streeter. "I'd encourage Ogallala stakeholders to stay engaged and continue to provide their ideas and feedback as we continue the dialogue through the Kansas water planning process."

If you have input or ideas about the Ogallala Aquifer you would like to share, contact Chelsea Good with the Kansas Department of Agriculture at 785-296-2653 or chelsea.good@kda.ks.gov. or Katie Ingels at the Kansas Water Office at 785-296-3185 or katie.ingels@kwo.ks.gov.