Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gov. Sam Brownback says water plan will help Ogallala Aquifer

December 1, 2011


Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday unveiled a proposal he said will help conserve the Ogallala Aquifer.

The proposals were pushed forward by an advisory committee that reviewed issues with the Ogallala, a vast underground water table beneath eight states, including western Kansas.

“The Ogallala Aquifer is the primary source of water for the western third of Kansas,” said Gary Harshberger, chairman of the Kansas Water Authority. “It is essential to find ways to help extend and conserve the life of the aquifer.”

Brownback’s proposals for the 2012 legislative session, which starts in January, include:

• Eliminating the “use it or lose it” policy for groundwater rights in areas closed to new water right development.

• Providing a process for proactive conservation plans.

• Allowing development of additional groundwater “water banks.”

• Giving irrigators expanded flexibility in managing their crop water over a five-year period.

State officials have scheduled four public meetings to talk about the proposals. Those meetings will be Dec. 8 in Wichita; Dec. 9 in Topeka; and Dec. 13 in Garden City and Colby.


Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 12 months ago

I think that very few people really realize what the Ogallala Aquifer actually is. It is fossil water, and is not being replenished in any significant manner at all. When it runs out, it's simply going to be gone.

So, it's good that it's being conserved as much as possible, because after the water table has gone down far enough, rain water will be the only source of water for a large section of the United States.

I grew up in western Kansas, and when I was younger there were no restrictions at all on how much water a farmer could draw from it. A lot of farmers had quite a business going by using up the fossil water to irrigate quite profitable crops.

But, a problem developed in that the wells required to do that became deeper and deeper. It's rather expensive to drill a well farther downward, and it also requires more energy to lift the water higher and higher, up to ground level. Quite a few farmers went bankrupt when their wells that were drawing water from the Ogallala Aquifer went dry.

The only possible thing that can be done is to conserve the water that is there as much as possible, and hopefully someday there will be methods found to collect and utilize more of the very sparse rainwater that does fall in the dryer states.

Things will be very different in the dryer states in the future, after the Ogallala Aquifer is gone. And that is also true for a lot of the southwestern United States, where the demand for water is increasing at an incredibly rapid rate, but the supply is static.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 12 months ago

Now that I've thought about it a little more, I realize that the only realistic long term solution is to purify and reuse as much water as possible in the future. While the idea may seem unpleasant, it would definitely be better than having no water at all.

mloburgio 3 years, 12 months ago

but brownback and the koch brothers want keystone pipeline to come to kansas where the pipeline will leak into the Ogallala Aquifer.

Key Facts on Keystone XL 12 oil spills in its first year

Safety: A rupture in the Keystone XL pipeline could cause a BP style oil spill in America’s heartland, over the source of fresh drinking water for 2 million people. NASA’s top climate scientist says that fully developing the tar sands in Canada would mean “essentially game over” for the climate. The U.S. Pipeline Safety Administration has not yet conducted an in depth analysis of the safety of diluted bitumen (raw tar sands) pipeline, despite unique safety concerns posed by its more corrosive properties. TransCanada predicted that the Keystone I pipeline would see one spill in 7 years. In fact, there have been 12 spills in 1 year. The company was ordered to dig up 10 sections of pipe after government-ordered tests indicated that defective steel may have been used. KeystoneXL will use steel from the same Indian manufacturer. Keystone XL will cross through America’s agricultural heartland, the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, the Ogallala aquifer, sage grouse habitat, walleye fisheries and more. The agency was not adequately accounting for threats to wildlife, increased pollution in distressed communities where the crude may be refined, or increases in carbon emissions that would exacerbate climate change, and a variety of other issues.

Chris Golledge 3 years, 12 months ago

Well, I agree that the pipeline and the implicit future reliance on fossil fuels is a really bad idea, but if the aquifer is not recharged through groundwater, then I don't see how oil leaked at the surface is going to get into the Ogalla either.

chootspa 3 years, 12 months ago

Actually it's a plot to make sure the corporate run farms get more of the water supply than the family farms that would most need them, but nice try.

geekin_topekan 3 years, 12 months ago

"Water banks"? I don't like the sound of that at all.

When water becomes currency, mostly likely within the next ten years, maybe then the Rpubs will take the environmental aspects of their world seriously. but, most likely they will call it Jesus when they have all "their" water stashed in the bank and all others are without.

The water system is a closed non-replenishing. All the water that is ever going to be on this planet is here, in one form or another. When its all toxic, there is nowhere else from which to draw.

Only a rpub could defise a plan to "own" the water, thus, life itself.

ignatius_j_reilly 3 years, 12 months ago

One bullet -- Eliminating the “use it or lose it” policy for groundwater rights -- should help, while another -- Giving irrigators expanded flexibility in managing their crop water over a five-year period -- might.

The "use it or lose it" policy seems like a good way to conserve water, right? But not when farmers will draw unneeded water for nine years just to be sure they'll have access on the tenth.

I'm not sure on the details of that second point, but it seems likely to help conserve water too, for similar reasons. A farmer won't take unneeded water now just in case he won't be allowed a certain amount next year.

Brock Masters 3 years, 12 months ago

I might be mistaken, but I think legislation and regulations were passed a couple of years ago that eliminated lose it or use it in closed areas. Someone might want to check, but if I'm right then Brownback is late to the dance it would seem.

Chris Golledge 3 years, 12 months ago


Let's use the water that our farmers need so that electrical company execs can sell power to Colorado. /sarcasm

Dan Rose 3 years, 12 months ago

Did you know that Las Vegas (and other communities) return wastewater directly to the water treatment plant(s), and run it through the chemical process to turn it back into useable water, including drinking water. Yeah, I know, some of you are gagging, but do you realize what nasties Manhattan, Topeka, and Lawrence pull out of the KAW? If you 've ever seen the millions of gallons of water discharged by wastewater treatment plants BACK into the KAW, you'd be sick then too... (btw, wastewater isn't just what you flush, it's your sink, your washing machine, sump pump, etc. too - it's 98% water, very little 'sediment'; and what is filtered out during the wwtp processing is dried and resold to farmers, etc. - makes INCREDIBLE topsoil and/or fertilizer!

The water discharged by wwtp's is cleaner than the KAW River itself! It has to go through chemical treatment processes, and in the end, ultraviolet exposure. All it would take would be a pipeline installed from one plant to the other. No more bacteria level elevations into our creeks and rivers, and we conserve SO much water... Vegas was proactive years ago, because they had no alternative; they have an incredible shortage of water.


littlexav 3 years, 12 months ago

The water leaving the wastewater plant in Topeka is cleaner than the water entering the drinking water treatment plant (i.e., we leave our water cleaner than we found it). That is a 100% accurate, verifiable fact. So enjoy your clean drinking water, Lawrencians! Sincerely yours, Topeka.

Dan Rose 3 years, 12 months ago

Yeah, and Topeka gets their drinking water from Manhattan... "it" flows downstream! :)


Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 12 months ago

I wonder, how many times has the Mississippi river water been "used" by the time it gets to New Orleans?

blindrabbit 3 years, 12 months ago

The biggest help in Kansas would be the cancelling of the Holcomb power plant! Coal burners are huge water users of water for conderser cooldown as well as feed water make-up! And all this for Kansas pollution and Colorado/Oklahoma usage!

Dan Rose 3 years, 12 months ago

And Westar wants a rate hike... imagine that - all the money wasted on lawyers, etc. for Holcomb, no wonder!

littlexav 3 years, 12 months ago

Maybe - but protecting groundwater isn't the same thing as recharging an aquifer, or even a "water table" aquifer like the Ogallala, which is comprised of water from the last ice age. It can be recharged, but only very (very!) slowly unless you drill injection wells like Wichita did with the Equus beds. You also wouldn't be able to farm the buffers as you suggested without serious erosion concerns.

kernal 3 years, 12 months ago

The proposal looks like double speak to me and I want more info than this! I bet NE, TX, OK, NM, CO, WY and SD want details evern more. If you look at a map of the aquifer, it's also located in western TX, western OK and eastern NM, three of the hardest hit areas of the 2011 drought. Wonder what their plans are and what they're going to think of our guv's plan?

There's no fight like a water rights fight!

kernal 3 years, 12 months ago

Guess next time I'd better write out the full names of the states if this site won't let me capitalize all of them.

littlexav 3 years, 12 months ago

It's a "shout" filter to prevent people YELLING at each other :-)

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 12 months ago

Yes, and it messes things up when you discuss stocks, such as DNDN (NYSE)!

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 12 months ago

By the way, I think right now DNDN is a good buy at $8.64!

Dan Rose 3 years, 12 months ago

Auntie - Stream buffers aren't just for water conservation/filtration, they're mostly for soil erosion prevention.


jayhawklawrence 3 years, 12 months ago

What we have to fear is the Enronization of our water resources.

It is going to be difficult to trust politicians who are considered front men for profit driven corporations.

We should be very suspicious of any plan put forth by this governor.

ignatius_j_reilly 3 years, 12 months ago

I don't know much about the Ogallala or water conservation, but I totally agree with eliminating the "use it or lose it" policy. While getting more farmers off the aquifer seems good, the way the policy is set up is terrible.

Now, a farmer won't be punished if he doesn't use the aquifer (by losing his rights to it) -- instead, find a way to reward them for not using it!

I actually think I'm with Brownback on this one. Even if it's not fully addressing the problem, it's going in the right direction.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 12 months ago

Just like California, we can have a system of sending water from parts of the state that has water to parts of the state that need extra water. If we only solve the small problem that water doesn't want to flow uphill.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 12 months ago

Maybe more crude oil could be imported from the Middle East, then it could be hauled there in trucks.

blindrabbit 3 years, 12 months ago

Enjoy fishing the Rio Grande in New Mexico, both trout and warm water regions. The salt cedar (Tamarix) has so overwhelmed the lower Rio in New Mexico that is sucks up and transpires a good portion of the flow. They are trying a control including introducing natural predators from the home range of the Tamarix; not too much success so far. We don't want it here, although it will probably be winter killed here.

Getaroom 3 years, 12 months ago

Water conservation is always a good idea, it is the one resource that without, we do not survive. Around the world corporations and big business have been buying up water rights for years now. Get this it's_just math, is not a conspiracy theory - it is a fact. Western Kansas has a relatively low population density and although conservation in homes and small business is and has always been important the real issues concerning that particular aquifer have always been the irrigation of production farm lands. The aquifer has not been able to keep up with replenishment when one considers the huge drawdown of this millions of years old water source. Even if all pumping stopped right now it would likely take hundreds of years, if not thousands to replenish. The Ogallala Aquifer is not supplied by run off from the Rockies as was a long held belief. When this resource is pumped dry, that is that for many life times ahead, so bring on the buffalo again forget cultivated crops. None of these issues are in the least bit - New News. If Brownback is involved you may rest assured giving more autonomy to "farmers" means giving corporate entities a free hand in the further depletion of that resource. Irrigation water is transpired water and no chance for reclamation is possible so that part of the conversation is a mute point. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to losing water rights to Corporate America. Sometime when you have a bit of time on your hands check out the Bush families holdings on water rights in Paraguay, instead of only focusing on oil. The privatization of water rights is ongoing and will at some point overwhelm community rights and that maybe sooner than you think. The big water rights conspiracy is here and it is now.

So_tired_of_the_whiners 3 years, 12 months ago

Here is a good link to an newsletter that has good Q & A on use it or lose it. Changing the policy won't help as much as everyone thinks it will.

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