The Garden City Telegram
9/18/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Water plan

Protect Ogallala Aquifer to boost Kansas economy.

Kansas has had a highly productive relationship with the Ogallala Aquifer for years. Rainfall is short for raising crops and cattle in the western sector of the Sunflower state. The aquifer has filled the moisture gap, enabling agriculture to thrive bountifully there.

Indeed, the aquifer has been a vital force in making agriculture one of the most reliable and prosperous players in the state's economy.

But the partnership, which many thought could never be disrupted, is in trouble.

... This valuable resource cannot replenish itself fast enough to meet the relentless, even irresponsible, demands placed on it by farmers, ranchers, cities and industry. ...

Now the time has come to prevent further damage to the Ogallala.

Both users and the government are obligated to pursue efforts to ensure that the asset is used in the most efficient way possible, including judicious reductions in the taking of the water.

The imbalance between supply and consumption is substantiated in a recently released study by Kansas State University. If current trends continue, the study found, 69 percent of the aquifer in Kansas would be depleted by about 2060. ...

The study, four years in the making, shows that water-use efficiencies have been increasing about 2 percent a year in Kansas through technology, crop genetics and strategies in water management. These measures cannot overcome the current rate of consumption, however. ...

The aquifer issue is not lost on Gov. Sam Brownback. In recent days he focused on solutions at the quarterly meeting of his Council of Economic Advisors in Dodge City.

Corn is the irrigated area's main crop. Last year's harvest brought in $l.75 billion. Retail beef added $384 billion. The 56,000 people employed in those operations added $3.2 billion to the economy. ...

At the conclusion of the session Brownback wisely called for development of a 50-year plan for improving use of the aquifer. ...

The Ogallala has been an essential ingredient in the raising of food for generations, both for the United States and its exports abroad. Nature has provided us with a resource that is readily available and relatively inexpensive. We cannot afford to let it be drained into oblivion.

-- The Kansas City Star