Archive for Monday, February 3, 2014

Proponent of Kansas Aqueduct project pushes plan before Legislature

February 3, 2014


— Proponents of a 360-mile long canal from the northeast tip of Kansas to western Kansas that would draw water from the Missouri River to replenish the Ogallala Aquifer were pushing their project in the Statehouse last week.

The state is updating a 1982 study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that pegged the cost of the Kansas Aqueduct project then at $4.4 billion to build and $475 million per year to maintain.

Mark Rude, executive director of the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3, said his area needs the water because it pumps about 2 million acre feet of water per year for irrigation and the Ogallala Aquifer receives about 200,000 acre feet of water per year in recharge.

"We can't keep this up," Rude told members of the House Natural Resources budget committee. An acre foot of water is the amount of water that will cover one acre of surface to the depth of one foot. It equals 325,853 gallons.

Missouri officials, however, have told Kansas to back off proposals to take water from the Missouri River.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon wrote Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in November, saying, "We have worked for many years, and fought many legal battles, to ensure the River is managed properly. Thoughtful and reasoned discussion and cooperation, rather than unilateral plans for massive diversions, must be the guiding forces in planning for the River's use."

But Rude said about 29.5 million acre feet of water flows in the river annually near White Cloud, Kansas, and the Kansas Aqueduct project would divert 4 million acre feet per year.

"It's not picking a fight," Rude said of the project. "It's not being un-neighborly."

Through a series of lift stations, the water would flow through a canal about 23 feet deep and 137 feet across. Rude described it as a lazy river going through the Flint Hills and then heading west.

State Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, said the briefing will spur a lot of questions. "It gives us some things to think about," he said.

Once the cost of the project is updated, it should be compared with the cost to the southwest Kansas economy of not bringing the water to western Kansas, Rude said. "The water will have an expense whether we take action or not," he said.


Ron Holzwarth 2 months, 1 week ago

I think that the elephant in the room is that the proposed pipeline will have to be huge, that is, approximately the size of the Missouri River, to move enough water to make any real difference in the productivity of the very dry western Kansas farmland. And even then, it wouldn't make that much of a difference.

I doubt very much that Missouri will be willing to give up their river for the benefit of Kansas.

Only one who has driven tens and hundreds of miles in every direction to see the sheer scale of the water that would be required to solve the problem will ever really understand that.


Mike Ford 2 months, 1 week ago

The Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas has water rights by virtue of treaty when their reservation touched the Missouri River prior to an 1854 treaty. They proposed the Pickatanoi pipeline years ago and the White State Government ignored them. This same state government ignores this tribe's water rights under the Winters Doctrine which derived from a 1908 US Supreme Court Case in Montana. I'd feel much better having the Kickapoo Tribe having sustainable water from a Plum Creek impoundment lake than a bunch of people who've drained the Oglallah Aquifer like addicts and are now asking for a illogical pipeline from a state government that shrifts everyone else.


Phillip Chappuie 2 months, 1 week ago

So in today's dollars what is that? Like over 10 billion dollars. I see a problem with that.


Ron Holzwarth 2 months, 1 week ago

There is a practice that some farmers use that is called "sustainable farming."

That is to use the resources that the natural environment provides to grow crops, cattle, and other agricultural products that can be produced without draining resources that will not be depleted or cannot be replaced without a very high cost. It is certainly not always the most profitable in the short term, but many farmers with the long term in mind are thinking of the next several generations, and that is why they restrict their farming operations to those methods.

Depleting the Ogallala Aquifer is under no stretch of the imagination a sustainable farming practice.


Peter Macfarlane 2 months, 2 weeks ago

In matters related to irrigation from ground water in western Kansas, the Division of Water Resources, the local management districts, and the irrigators have for decades been living in a fantasy world. The right to site and drill an irrigation well and use the water from it has been based on so-called "well spacing requirements" that are predicated on the amount of recharge that the High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer receives annually on average. Now, nobody really knows how much recharge the aquifer really receives or how it is distributed. Hence, the fantasy. The amounts that are usually assumed vary from east to west following the rainfall gradient, but the assumption is usually on the order of 1 to 3 inches. Furthermore, the amount that irrigators are actually withdrawing annually has only been known through actual measurement since the 1990s. Up until that time, the State took the irrigator's word for amount, usually based on an assumed pumping rate and the number of hours of pumping.

My point is that we have all been delusional with respect to what irrigation has been doing to what is essentially a non-renewable resource. We, the taxpayers, have funded many studies of this aquifer system and the effect of irrigation it. Most if not all of these studies demonstrated the sad state of affairs with respect to the future of this resource, but alas, the warnings and the picture they paint of the aquifer's future have been largely ignored by all the parties concerned.

The concept of an aqueduct sounds simple, but the devil is in the details. The energy cost of moving that much water uphill almost 3,000 feet from the Missouri River to western Kansas would be enormous, not to mention the energy losses due to friction. The irony is that much of that water would go to corn that eventually would turn into ethanol, another waste of energy. The other major problem would be the need to prevent water loss through evaporation or seepage out of the bottom of the aqueduct. Evaporation generally increases across the state from east to west. The aqueduct would have to be completely enclosed to prevent major losses of water from it. Once the water arrives in western Kansas distribution to irrigated fields could be problematic. The water has to be delivered through lined canals, or pumped underground to recharge the aquifer, which will have its own set of unique problems. In my opinion, this is a project where we are likely to be throwing good money after bad.


Richard Heckler 2 months, 2 weeks ago

the question is do they pay taxes at all? how much and in how many ways do they receive corporate welfare?

and what cost to the environment?


Ron Holzwarth 2 months, 2 weeks ago

This is an amazing thread. Maybe the comments should have been restricted to individuals who have spent a minimum of 20 to 25 years working in the agricultural industry.


Richard Heckler 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Tell the hog and cattle feed yard butchers to forget it. They cost taxpayers too much money.

Tell the corporate farmers to grow crops that are friendly to western Kansas rainfall. Otherwise NO DEAL!


Lawrence Morgan 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Some excellent websites to have a look at and think about, Mark Jabubauskus (I hope I spelled that correctly)! I have not been aware of these websites before.

And also thanks to all of you for these excellent comments, which help me learn about an area I haven't had much knowledge in before.


Bob Zimmerman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Trying to keep a straight face, I can't wait to see the "cost-benefit" analysis of spending billions to justify some kind of benefit for a few grain farmers who made the stupid decision to farm land that was not suited for it.

Can you imagine the poor government analyst who has to formally do this and probably waste years of time and energy...when this can be done in a few weeks by a team of MBA students.

It would be cheaper to buy out the farmers.


Mark Jakubauskas 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Some interesting related links:

Trans-Texas Canal:

The North American Water and Power Alliance:

J. C. Hopper's Great Interstate Canal:


Randall Uhrich 2 months, 2 weeks ago

As soon as the users that are mining the Ogallala Aquifer can pay for the cost of the aqueduct, I say then go ahead and build it. Why should all of us taxpayers pay for something that will benefit just a few corporate farmers in western Kansas? It'd be another example of public cost for private benefit. Spend the money instead on something that is good for everyone, like education.


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