Officials developing 50-year water plan






water plan

MANHATTAN (AP) — A 50-year plan for managing water in Kansas is likely to include regional conservation rules and greater use of the Missouri River for the state's residents, officials working on the proposal said Friday.

The officials said the plan isn't likely to suggest imposing a single set of statewide regulations or water conservation targets because participants in dozens of meetings have wanted to retain some local control. The officials also said there's widespread interest in public education about water issues and concerns about the eroding storage capacity of the 13 federal reservoirs in Kansas, which are tied to the public water supplies for about two-thirds of the state's residents.

Tracy Streeter, the Kansas Water Office's director and one of the six members of the team drafting the plan, said there's also a sense that Kansas isn't fully using the Missouri River, along its northeast border. But he and other team members aren't sure the plan will mention a decades-old proposal to build an aqueduct from the river to western Kansas.

Gov. Sam Brownback called in October for a 50-year water plan and since then, officials have had more than 140 meetings with 8,000 participants. The final plan is due in November; the team expects to finish its first draft in May and briefed reporters Friday after a daylong meeting in Manhattan with 150 state and local officials and members of the public.

"If something doesn't happen at this point in time, what any of us would say to future generations is probably not going to be very pretty about the status of water in Kansas," said state Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey, another team member. "I don't want to say it's our last chance, but this is the point where action has to occur."

Brownback called for the long-term plan with parts of the state still suffering under a lengthy drought and amid concerns about the ongoing depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas.

A 2012 law allows the creation of special regional districts to reduce water use. The first, in Sheridan County, was approved by the state last year, and another is being formed in several west-central Kansas counties. Team members said the districts appear to be a good model for promoting conservation.

Meanwhile, the aqueduct project to bring Missouri River water to western Kansas remains under discussion. A 1982 study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put the cost at $3.6 billion, and the idea now faces strong opposition from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

But Streeter said it's become clear that Kansans have "an under-appreciation" for the river's value.

"It's clear that it's a water resource that Kansas is entitled to utilize, and I don't think we're maximizing the opportunities the Missouri River provides," Streeter said.

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