Kansas Water Congress holds summer conference
By Kylene Scott
In a year with limited rainfall, it is important to manage the water that is available, and members of the Kansas Water Congress met in early August to discuss various issues. Updates were provided from the Kansas Division of Water Resources, the Kansas Water Office and other state agencies during the meeting held at Greensburg, Kan.
Members of the KWC come from every watershed and represent every type of water user in the state. They recognize the necessity for the unity of purpose and objective in supporting the formation and execution of a stable water policy for Kansas.
Lane Letourneau of the Kansas Division of Water Resources provided a legislative update on various state House and Senate bills regarding water. There have been a lot of applications submitted for help because of the drought, he said.
The multi-year flex account was signed on March 5 by the governor.
"We knew we'd need a tool pretty fast because of the drought," Letourneau said. "We had the drought emergency term permit and as the drought lingered on we knew that producers were going to need another tool, so we rolled up our sleeves and got this done."
To date, there have been about 400 applications for MYFA he said, but the Kansas DWR has assisted literally a thousand producers already.
"All the GMDs (groundwater management districts) have helped folks. Our field offices have helped folks, but producers are waiting until that Oct. 1 deadline, or at least until at the end of the irrigation season to see where they stand," Letourneau said.
Tracy Streeter of the Kansas Water Office also reiterated the impact of the drought on Kansas' water situation.
"When the drought hits eastern Kansas, it becomes a big deal." Streeter said.
Drought has a huge impact on agriculture, and Streeter is impressed with the amount of legwork the U.S. Department of Agriculture has done to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers dealing with the drought.
"The federal government is doing all it can," Streeter said. "I think the USDA has done a fantastic job."
Streeter also discussed stiffening penalties for water over use, prioritizing the KWO budget, a new Conservation Reserve Program that helps with buffer strips and updating the weather station program.
Steve Frost, water conservation program manager, also talked about the drought.
"The drought has exacerbated our workload," Frost said.
Frost explained a livestock initiative--a cost-share program that helps with water supplies to livestock.
"It is a very good thing," Frost said.
The program has $500,000 available, with $100,000 in each area. It's first-come, first-serve with a 45-day enrollment period.
Frost also detailed the specifics of the CREP program, another research project involving NRCS soil sampling and impacts on root establishment of plants. He also talked about several dredging projects at Kansas reservoirs.
Rex Buchanan, Kansas Geologic Survey, spent some time discussing the groundwater situation as well as updating attendees about other issues. He spent some time on fracking or hydraulic fracturing a technique used to increase or restore the rate at which fluids, such as petroleum, water, or natural gas can be produced from subterranean natural reservoirs.
"It has absolutely increased the amount of time (we've spent) in the last few years," Buchanan said. "Most (fracking) is in southern Kansas, but it is moving north. There's an awful lot of interest."
Buchanan said what is happening in Kansas is nothing compared to the "boom" currently happening in North Dakota. Kansas, he said, needs to look at the problems and issues North Dakota is facing and prepare the best it can.
"We see and hear about things. It's a slow and steady increase (in Kansas) not a boom, like what's happening in North Dakota," Buchanan said. "It's not nothing and will have an impact on water."
Kansas Farm Bureau Water Resource Specialist Kent Askren said members are concerned about water policy and mitigation costs facing water quality issues.
John Kaufman, general manager, Leavenworth Water Department discussed a plan to reuse excess river water in his area with hopes to help recharge the Ogallala aquifer.
"It won't solve our Ogallala (problems) but it will be a good help," Kaufman said. "It's a win-win deal. It should help solve problems in eastern and western Kansas."
Although not set in stone, his plan still needs further study, but does involve diverting water from down stream, and possibly moving it via pipelines upstream.
"It would mean jobs for people--building, designing and running it," Kaufman said. "It's time to start thinking globally."
The water plan can be thought of like an interstate system, and the plan would most certainly involve other states, he said.
"Water always flows uphill towards more money," Kaufman said.
Kylene Scott can be reached by phone at 620-227-1804 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.