The Garden City Telegram
10/31/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Water flow

Radical plan for relief worthy of a closer look.

When it comes to future economic prosperity in southwest Kansas, water always bubbles to the top as a concern.

In an arid region — one fueled by agriculture — farmers are left to sap water from the ground to maintain crop production. It's put a serious dent in the supply of water from the Ogallala Aquifer, leaving policymakers wrestling with various strategies needed to slow the rate of depletion from the aquifer.

Water conservation always matters, naturally. Consumers — whether they're producers, businesses and industries, or individual households — should be mindful of ways to get by with less water.

At the same time, it's worth knowing if there could be some way to bring more water into the region when Mother Nature won't cooperate with adequate rain and snow.

Such is the thinking behind a concept that's been tossed about before, but never gained much steam for a number of reasons.

Now, however, a 31-year-old federal study that proposed pumping Missouri River water some 400 miles to the southwest part of Kansas has been resurrected.

The 1982 High Plains Ogallala Aquifer Regional Resources Study by the federal Department of Commerce was done to satisfy a 1976 congressional mandate to examine declining water supplies in the High Plains.

The resulting plan called for creating a river of sorts that would push excess water from the Missouri River in northeast Kansas to parched southwest Kansas. Other communities on the way also could benefit from the new water supply.

Of course, such a project would be costly in setup and maintenance, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Without such a dramatic fix, though, the future of an agricultural economy that helps fuel many jobs and related ventures throughout Kansas could be extinguished.

Extraordinary problems often demand extraordinary solutions.

What may seem like a pipe dream could end up being an economic boon in a state that depends on farm success. For that reason, the idea still warrants serious study and conversation.