Water futures: Strategies to reduce use must be taken seriously.

7/4/2014

As nice as recent record-setting rain was, it was a drop in the bucket compared to what drought-stricken western Kansas still needs.

As nice as recent record-setting rain was, it was a drop in the bucket compared to what drought-stricken western Kansas still needs.

Knowing we can't depend on Mother Nature to save the day in that regard, a region where agriculture saps so much moisture from the ground must get serious about strategies to preserve the precious resource.

But one recent proposal to cut back on water use by as much as 20 percent across Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 was rejected, leaving the groundwater management district's board promising to go back to its members to see what irrigators might find palatable in ways to reduce water use.

The plan would have been the second of its kind in Kansas and the first for a district. After the Kansas Legislature in 2012 gave groundwater management districts the authority to pursue such conservation plans, Sheridan County irrigators became the first to agree to cut water consumption by some 20 percent.

Considering the drain on groundwater resources, a diverse mix of aggressive strategies — from water conservation to drought-resistant crops — is indeed in order.

A variety of ideas will be discussed as part of the Governor's Water Vision Team tour of Kansas. Area tour stops will include two Tuesday: from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Finney County 4-H Building in Garden City, and 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Lane County 4-H Building in Dighton.

Citizens are encouraged to attend and weigh in on the first draft of the "50-Year Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas." The draft, compiled from input gathered from stakeholders representing various water uses, may be viewed at kwo.org.

The project is particularly critical for western Kansas. The region with its ag-driven economy may fuel many jobs and related ventures, but has no future without a dependable supply of water.

Moving forward, new strategies no doubt will include incentives and rewards for irrigators and others who implement effective water conservation practices.

While such deals could help, there could be no greater incentive than being part of change needed to save western Kansas.

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