Policy changes should develop at local level.

With extreme drought showing no signs of loosening its grip, few issues could be as pressing as water conservation in southwest Kansas.

Damage caused by drought trickles down to practically everyone trying to make a living in this part of the country. Knowing as much, representatives of local government had cause to embrace the notion of regional communities working toward a plan to address water-related challenges.

Members of the Garden City Commission, Finney County Commission and Holcomb City Council joined recently to discuss various issues, and water quality and quantity were among topics that bubbled to the top. For example, Garden City Manager Matt Allen floated the idea of having the governments work toward a regional plan to address water-related challenges.

Water in western Kansas and specifically the future of the Ogallala Aquifer have long been concerns. But extreme dryness that's led farmers and others to pump more water from the ground understandably has caused even more angst over the future of the aquifer, and western Kansas as a whole.

Mother Nature cannot do enough to recharge the aquifer, considering its rate of depletion. Ideas have been tossed around on ways to extend the life of an aquifer that lies under Kansas and several other states.

When it comes to strategies to conserve that precious natural resource, the challenge is in finding the proper balance between water conservation and economic growth. Water use, after all, extends beyond farm fields, as it also fuels beef and dairy industries, other manufacturing and recreational opportunities.

This region has no future without a dependable supply of water. If western Kansas is to stay viable, no more time can be lost in pursuing new ways to conserve the valuable resource.

While local governments have cause to pursue a regional strategy with their southwest Kansas neighbors, each one also can drive change at home. Communities elsewhere have pursued initiatives ranging from incentives to plant drought-tolerant grass to rebates for efficient toilets and washing machines.

Every possibility regarding water conservation should be on the table, and residents of communities battered by drought should embrace such a push.