MCT: Brownback: Kansas needs to plan how to conserve water

3/2/2013

By BRENT D. WISTROM

By BRENT D. WISTROM

The Wichita Eagle

TOPEKA (MCT) — The intense drought still affecting Kansas could continue for years, forcing expensive water production projects and painful conservation efforts, state officials said Friday.

But no one knows for sure how long the drought will last.

With that in mind, Gov. Sam Brownback said that the state should push forward as aggressively as possible to convince farmers, industry and everyday Kansans to conserve water, and cities to develop and improve water sources.

"We ought to overwork this thing," Brownback said, echoing his Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. "We need people to be thinking differently."

That means publicity campaigns asking farmers to consider planting less water-intensive crops and asking Wichita to share its water conservation, consumer rate structure and aquifer-plumbing strategies with cities across the state, Brownback suggested.

"We need to use this time to plan better for our future," he said.

The governor's call to action came after Wichita officials showed Brownback's Drought Response Team how the drought, if continued as it has the past two years, will dry out Cheney Reservoir by 2015 and force an increasingly painful series of water restrictions and rate hikes as the city spends hundreds of millions to get more water.

Parts of south-central Kansas got more than two feet of snow in the past two weeks, but that melts down to only a few inches of water and it's not enough to pull the state out of its extreme drought, said state climatologist Mary Knapp.

Kansas is in its third year of drought, and that could continue for several more years, she said.

Brownback said the state is working to deal with it, but it must also prepare for future droughts.

"We're going to have another one," he said.

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