Archive for Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kansas looking at Missouri River to help irrigate western Kansas

November 19, 2013


— A proposal to transport water from the Missouri River to irrigate crops in western Kansas and replenish the Ogallala Aquifer was rolled out before state legislators on Tuesday.

"It's exciting for the state of Kansas to be looking at this," said Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office.

But officials noted they were in the early stages of considering the Kansas Aqueduct Project.

The project would siphon water from the Missouri River from the most northeast corner of Kansas in White Cloud, and transport the water some 360 miles through a series of lift stations and canals past Perry Lake, through the Flint Hills and into western Kansas.

David Brenn, president of the Kansas Water Congress, said the aqueduct proposal "is the best and last long-term hope for water supply in the state of Kansas." The congress is made up of water officials from across the state and works on water resource issues.

Mark Rude, executive director of the Garden City-based Groundwater Management District No. 3, said if the state takes no action in the next 50 years, the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground water system stretching from Nebraska to Texas, will be 70 percent depleted.

Kansas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have joined to fund a $300,000 study to re-calculate a 1982 study on the aqueduct project. In 1982, the study pegged the cost at $3.6 billion, but officials said estimates now could range from $12.5 billion to $25 billion. The new study is expected to be launched next year and completed in 18 months.

Streeter said the idea is to divert water at high flow or flood times on the Missouri River. That would help Kansas farmers and alleviate downstream flooding on the Missouri, he said. The water office is the state's water agency, which conducts water planning and helps make state water policy.

Earlier this year, Groundwater Management District No. 3 told state officials that they were considering filing an appropriation for water rights from the Missouri River.

Anticipating litigation from others with interest in the Missouri River, Rude said it was important to seek a water right to establish a priority on the river.

But state officials urged the groundwater district to take no action until the state can make a thorough examination of the proposal.

Streeter cautioned that there are numerous interests that use the river that are looking closely at what Kansas does. If the study says the project can be done, then many stakeholders would have to be brought on board, he said.

"At some point in time, there will probably be a play on the river, and Kansas needs to be well-positioned, but I'm not sure of the timing on that," Streeter said.

Several members of the Special Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources agreed, noting that legal fights over water rights often take decades to resolve.

Now that it is apparent that Kansas is looking at the Missouri River as a possible water source, state Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, recommended "you might want to put money in our litigation fund."


Les Blevins 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Reducing the mining of the water of the Ogallala Aquifer at unsustainable rates should have a lot of appeal to everyone except the big ag interests that make $millions of dollars annually from intensive farming and irrigation; which is destined to be reduced through intelligent planning or blindly following along the path we find ourselves on. So I sent a letter to Gov. Brownback proposing a change of direction but he didn't even answer my letter because he represents big corporate interests just as Rep. Sloan does. I'm also convinced the city of Lawrence is in bed with certain businesses that won't allow the city to consider well though out and timely proposals for constructive change. Email LBlevins at sunflower dot com for copies of my letters to several civic and political leaders who are in fact deliberately misrepresenting and being duplicitous.


Bob Smith 5 months ago

Maybe they could make all of western Kansas into an organic vegetable farm / bunny ranch.


Richard Heckler 5 months ago

Commercial Corporate Farming. Water supply or convenient availability does not matter just let the taxpayers pick up the tab for more corporate welfare.

This is about corporate farms maybe not wheat,corn or milo.

The farming may be commercial hog farms or commercial beef stockyards = big time water consumption.

We're not dealing with honest people in the Brownback admin. The family farm is not what is on the table. Best keep a close eye on this project.


Mike George 5 months ago

One thing that hasn't been discussed here yet is the fact that all over the west (west of us), water rights have already been sold or are tied up in projects for the foreseeable future. This is absolutely one of the biggest problems with buying/borrowing water - it's not available. The folks on here suggesting that a different approach needs to be taken in areas like Western Kansas are not wrong. Whether we want to admit it or not, the supply and distribution of water is the biggest limiting factor to agriculture and sensible development from here to the west coast. And by sensible development, I don't mean a swimming pool in every 3 acre yard of grass. Mr. Holzwarth is correct when he identifies corn production as a large part of the problem in Kansas and now in Nebraska.


Beator 5 months ago

I think the use of Etruscan techniques for drainage, building aqueducts would be an nice aesthetic addition to the western Kansas landscape.


Leslie Swearingen 5 months ago

You know I am going to have to go with Bob in this one. Why, oh why, do people see either Western Kansas or a desert as the perfect place to farm or have perfect lawns, walter falls and the like? I cringe every time I see a movie made in Las Vegas The water waste is horrendous and I doubt the gamblers are even aware of what is around them.


Bob Zimmerman 5 months ago

This is so silly.

No one in their right minds can expect billions to spent for an aqueduct to subsidize a few wheat farmers in western Kansas; who are farming marginal land and are draining the aquifer.

So stop the pandering now and plan for vacating western Kansas.


Mark Jakubauskas 5 months ago

Some interesting related links:

Trans-Texas Canal:

The North American Water and Power Alliance:

J. C. Hopper's Great Interstate Canal:


Ron Holzwarth 5 months ago

This proposal might sound reasonable at first glance, but what's lacking is an overview of the energy costs associated with it. If you're worried about global warming due to CO2 emissions, the gigantic energy usage, and its associated CO2 emissions, of this proposed project would shock you. There is no mention at all of the energy cost that would be required to operate the lift stations in the article. It certainly would be very expensive water by the time it gets to western Kansas!

There is a somewhat similar project in operation in California that supplies water for the southern part of the state. But, it relies on gravity for its operation, and not on a series of lift stations that will need to elevate every single drop of water something like 1,000 feet.

The article also mentions that part of the purpose of the project is to replenish the Ogallala Aquifer. It is difficult for me to believe that after transporting the water that far at such enormous expense, it will simply be injected deep into the ground. That would need to be done to replenish the aquifer, because virtually no water on the surface ever reaches it.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.