Kansans soon may be hearing much more about the state's reservoirs, water officials say.
"They're going to define the state's future," said Ken Grotewiel, assistant director of the Kansas Water Office.
Already, 40 percent of the state's residents rely on four reservoirs -- Clinton, Perry, Milford, Tuttle -- for most or all of their water.
"When you look at the demographic trends and projections, that percentage is only going to increase," Grotewiel predicted.
The Water Office, he said, is putting together a long-range plan for making sure the reservoirs can sustain the projected growth. The plan will be presented to the Kansas Legislature in 2005.
The Water Office played host to a hearing on the plan Wednesday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. The office convened a similar meeting Tuesday in Hutchinson.
"People were interested and generally supportive," Grotewiel said. About a dozen city and rural water district officials attended the meeting.
The plan is expected to call for an increase in efforts to reduce siltation at the reservoirs and to begin setting aside money needed to pay off the state's water-storage debts.
The siltation problems at Perry Reservoir are well-known.
"If you look at the satellite photos from 20 years ago, you'll see that a lot of the areas that used to be open water are in mud flats now," said Tom Lowe, an environmental scientist at the Water Office.
Also, recent algae-bloom outbreaks at Marion and Cheney reservoirs were linked to the siltation problems within their respective watersheds. Both outbreaks led to shutdowns of local water supplies.
"I'd say the red flag is already waving," Lowe said.
Grotewiel said he didn't expect the new plan to include a call for additional funding. But it will, he said, change the way the state water fund is spent.
The water fund is a pool of money dedicated for water resources and research. But over the years, lawmakers have tapped the fund to pay for programs previously covered by the state's general spending fund.
"We need to get back to using the water fund for what it was intended," Grotewiel said.