As the Ogallala Aquifer Advisor Committee wraps up the governor’s 2012 Proposed Water Legislation public meeting tour throughout the state, I believe now more than ever we are going to see changes in the decisions stakeholders make and how they manage their water rights.
The drought this past year has shown farmers the value of the Ogallala and the need to make sure it is available into the future.
The Governor’s 2012 water legislation package is a big step in offering more flexibility and stakeholder control. These proposals are fundamental in changing from a culture of consumption to a culture of conservation in order to conserve and extend this vital resource that supports the entire western third of Kansas.
They also create an environment of positive change to support future economic growth.
It has been evident through the OAAC meetings in order to see a change; it has to be a locally led effort.
Kansans living and working in these areas have provided valuable input in the policy development as more than 400 attended the Governor’s Economic Summit on the Future of the Ogallala Aquifer this past summer.
Two consistent messages taken from the summit were “something needs to be done” and “locals need to have control.”
While some may suggest the governor’s proposals don’t go far enough in water savings, if the proposals are implemented the results could be significant.
Local Enhancement Management Areas, or LEMAs provide the opportunity for locally defined water savings.
A current proposal led by locals in northwest Kansas is an example that would reduce water use by 20 percent.
We believe when successfully implemented others will follow suit and similar savings will be replicated throughout the Ogallala Aquifer.
The governor’s proposed expansion of the Kansas Water Banking Act can provide for locally developed water markets that will by law have a built in 10 percent water savings.
This is also a step in placing a value on water.
It’s true that every great journey begins with one small step.
This legislation is four steps in the right direction and allows producers more confidence to make water conservation a part of their business decisions.
The OAAC will reconvene in the upcoming months and look for more ways to conserve and extend the useful life of the aquifer while keeping western Kansas’ economy strong.
Kansas Water Authority chair,
Advisory Committee chair,