We would like to respond to the “Aquifer addiction” editorial published in the Sept. 4 Journal-World.
The recent Kansas State University study has again illustrated the reality of the Ogallala Aquifer. The amount of withdraw continues to exceed the amount of recharge. As pointed out in the study, reducing the amount of pumping to sustainable levels would cause economic devastation. In recognition of that fact, the existing Kansas Water Plan policy is to “conserve and extend” the useful life of the aquifer.
In 2012, Gov. Brownback led an effort to accelerate conservation efforts by repealing the “use it or lose it” provisions of the Kansas Water Appropriation Act. With this repeal, water rights holders in areas closed to new water rights are no longer required to put the water to a beneficial use or run the risk of losing the water right. As a result, water users now have the ability to adopt a conservation mindset and choose to save the water for future use.
In addition, the governor supported 2012 legislation to empower local groundwater management districts and their constituents to propose adopting water use restrictions, which would be enforced by the state of Kansas. Local Enhanced Management Areas, or LEMAs, provides such a mechanism at the local level. The first LEMA has been approved and is being implemented in a 100-square-mile portion of Sheridan County. Water rights holders in this area proposed approximately a 20 percent reduction to their average water use over a five-year period. Water rights holders within portions of Greeley, Lane, Scott, Wallace and Wichita County are looking at a similar plan with discussions also occurring in parts of southwest Kansas.
The Ogallala Aquifer supports a multibillion-dollar economy that is important to not only western Kansas, but all of Kansas. While some will argue we’re not doing enough, fast enough, a culture of conservation aimed at reducing the decline of the Ogallala is emerging in western Kansas. Finding the balance between conserving our resources while protecting our economy and the people who rely upon it, will always be a difficult task. The goal of those involved in these conservation efforts is to ensure future generations of western Kansas have the ability to thrive with the support of irrigated agriculture as well as benefit from the increasing value of our water resources.