A public hearing is slated Aug. 23 to discuss forming a district-wide Local Enhanced Management Area across northwest Kansas' Groundwater Management District No. 4.

The meeting is slated for 9 a.m. Aug 23 in the Cultural Arts Center at Colby Community College, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

The proposed LEMA management plan covers all or portions of Cheyenne, Decatur, Rawlins, Gove, Graham, Logan, Sheridan, Sherman, Thomas and Wallace counties.

Generally, the initial hearing is to determine whether conditions within the proposed LEMA area support its establishment as being in the public interest and whether the geographic boundaries are reasonable. A subsequent hearing might take place to determine whether GMD No. 4’s proposed LEMA Management Plan should be adopted and the area designated as a LEMA.

This area already has had success with a LEMA. In January 2013, a 99-mile area of Sheridan and a small part of Thomas counties formed its own five-year LEMA to extend the life of the aquifer in their area - the first of its kind for Kansas.

This LEMA expires at the end of 2017. Irrigators in the Sheridan 6 LEMA recently renewed the tool for another five years.

With the first plan, irrigators agreed to pump an average 20 percent less from the water underground. Specifically, the farmers are limiting themselves to a total of 55 inches of irrigated water over five years – an average of 11 inches a year. There is also flexibility. Users have options to move water to different wells inside the LEMA.

Farmers have implemented different management strategies, including more water-saving crops to help with irrigation cutbacks. They also have implemented technology, including low-flow nozzles and soil-moisture probes to helps show whether the ground needs irrigated.

According to the Kansas Geological Survey, irrigators in the Sheridan 6 LEMA have reduced their irrigation use by 35 percent over the first four years of the program.

A few other areas are considering LEMAs, including an area of Kearny and Finney counties north of the Arkansas River. More public meetings on the concept are slated for later this summer.

For more information about the district-wide LEMA, including a copy of the LEMA proposal, visit the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources website at www.agriculture.ks.gov/lema or GMD No. 4’s website at gmd4.org.