The Kansas Water Authority decided Wednesday that the state “should scrap its de facto policy of draining the Ogallala Aquifer,” Allison Kite reports for the Kansas Reflector. “Instead, the board said, the Kansas government should take steps to stop the decline of the aquifer, which supplies water to one-sixth of the world’s grain supply, and save it for future generations.”
The authority board voted almost unanimously to say in its annual report to the governor and legislature that the “policy of planned depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is no longer in the best interest of the State of Kansas,” and to recommend the state create a formal process to establish goals and actions to “halt the decline of the Ogallala Aquifer while promoting flexible and innovative management within a timeframe that achieves agricultural productivity, thriving economies and vibrant communities — now and for future generations of Kansans.”
The language had wide support among board members. “My opinion of this is that it should have been done 15 years ago, or 20,” said Lynn Goossen, a farmer who is also the board of the groundwater management district in northwest Kansas.
Hite notes, “The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water, stretches across parts of eight states from South Dakota to Texas. After World War II farmers started pumping water from it to irrigate crops in arid western Kansas, establishing the region as a booming farming economy. For decades, the water was used with little thought of ensuring enough remained for future generations. But now, the water is running out. Some parts of the aquifer have half the water they had before irrigation on the aquifer began. Parts of western Kansas have an estimated 10 years of water left. There’s little surface water since streams that reliably flowed through the area in 1961 all but disappeared, according to the Kansas Geological Survey.”
Authority Chair Dawn Buehler said many farmers have been waiting on the government to tell them it’s time to do something: “We’ve heard that over and over from people — that, ‘Well, you know, we’re not at a dangerous zone yet because they’ll let us know when it’s time.’ I think the importance of today was saying, ‘It’s time.’ ”