Archive for Thursday, February 23, 2012

Water laws

Two bills currently being considered by Kansas legislators would produce only limited benefits for the state’s water supply.

February 23, 2012


“If we are to have a future, we have to have water,” says Gov. Sam Brownback.

He definitely has that right!

The governor has stacked initiative upon initiative into his first term in office, and water policy changes are part of his ambitious legislative agenda. Two water bills working their way through the process appear especially significant.

House Bill 2451 is intended to remove the “use it or lose it” provision attached to groundwater rights and thereby conserve water. It’s touted as protecting, at least to a limited extent, the Ogallala Aquifer, letting rights-holders maintain their rights without forcing them to use the water. Knowledgeable observers, however, point out that until sufficient funding is provided to repurchase water rights and address the consumption patterns affecting the aquifer, little progress can be expected. And given the current attractive prices for irrigated crops, the incentive to retire water rights is low.

House Bill 2685 would enable rights holders to create a “reservoir improvement district” so that those who depend upon a reservoir’s capacity would have a way of extending its life; the federal reservoirs and water supply lakes in the state are, unfortunately, filling with sediment and at rates generally faster than projected. That certainly is true at both Clinton and Perry reservoirs.

The bill, which some say was written to give Westar Energy more authority over John Redmond reservoir southeast of Emporia, conceivably could help cities, rural water districts and other rights-holders extend the lives of lakes that supply their drinking water. However, it fails to address the real problem related to siltation: lack of land treatment above the lakes. Until the loss of soil from upstream fields is stopped, other efforts are Band-Aids in a losing battle.

Short of a major overhaul of Kansas water law, and an attempt to address how the state will fund efforts to protect the quantity and quality of its water, these bills seem to be prudent, although incomplete, efforts that generally could benefit the state’s residents.


Centerville 5 years, 9 months ago

May be a "band aid" but huge improvement over the Sibileus ICUGA that would have given water appropriation authority to a governor-appointed bureaucrat. All that it would have taken to set it in motion was someone complaining about someone else's water use. Another bullet of insanity dodged.

hujiko 5 years, 9 months ago

The writer is absolutely correct in calling for better soil management policy in order to reduce sedimentation in our reservoirs. Headward erosion of lower ordered streams within a drainage basin will always entrain new sediment to be deposited, however much of this could be trapped easily with the construction of many smaller reservoirs (ponds) along the first through third order streams. Other practices such as bank stabilization would be useful in some applications, however it is normally best to leave a channel to its natural course as most sediments in meandering streams are constantly being recycled. Lastly, over usage of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides would need to be curbed to reduce the toxicity of the sediments; as it stands the sediments in our reservoirs are too contaminated to be feasibly abated.

The job potential is massive, especially considering the only thing being moved is dirt. What a great way to get Kansans back to work improving their own infrastructure. The fewer chemicals being used will also save farmers considerable costs.

Water will be the issue of the 21st century without a doubt, this really is our future up in the air. I am glad Brownback is taking initiative to bring this to public discussion without infusing any politics, so please do us all a favor and keep it that way.

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