The 50-year Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas is off to a running start.
At the governor's annual water conference in Manhattan Nov. 14-15, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey reported that 100% of the Phase 1 action items have been initiated, and 50% of Phase 2 items are underway.
High on the list of this year's accomplishments is the completion of a Phase I dredging of John Redmond Reservoir near Burlington — the reservoir in the state most threatened by silting.
Another major accomplishment was the reaching of an agreement between Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska on ensuring water rights for all three states on the Republican River without taking the dispute to court.
The state also reported that the only Local Enhanced Management Area, better known as the Sheridan Six, has succeeded in maintaining yields while voluntarily cutting water usage by 20%.
A second voluntary program, the implementation of Water Conservation Areas by individuals or groups of users, is also advancing. Four management plans have been approved for Franklin Family Farms, Westside Dairy, T&O Farms and Wichita County.
The past year has also seen the development of three water technology farms in public/private partnerships to study how effective alternative irrigation techniques are in reducing overall water use.
The largest test is at T&O Farms in Finney County, with smaller projects on the Dwayne Roth farm in Finney County and Water ILS in Pawnee County.
All three farms will be continuing their projects in the growing season of 2017.
More projects are also planned for the coming year.
There will be an effort to build a workforce of water resource workers though a training program in connection with Northwest Technical College in Goodland.
There will be an ongoing effort to encourage cotton as an alternative crop, with a streamlined "drift watch" program to help growers of sensitive crops let their neighbors know their planting intentions.
There will be continued work to accomplish a limited irrigation crop insurance program. Currently, growers can only insure "irrigated" or "dryland," and there is no room for growers to get insurance for crops that are irrigated only at critical times in the growing cycle.
The coming year will also see the completion of an assessment for developing a remediation model for cleaning up groundwater in the Equus Beds Aquifer.
Streambank stabilization, especially in the basins that affect the John Redmond Reservoir, is included in the list of ongoing projects, along with efforts to identify reservoirs at high risk for blue-green algae blooms and find ways to reduce the nutrient load in those reservoirs.
Earl Lewis, Kansas Water Office assistant director, discussed the thorny issue of how to pay for water vision initiatives going forward.
The Kansas Water Office also presented awards to four entities as part of its ongoing "Be the Vision" program. The program recognizes those who have made an exemplary contribution to the water vision.
Watch this space for more details on the ongoing initiatives.