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Is Water Transfer the Best Option?

Is Water Transfer the Best Option?

With prolonged drought, Kansas water officials are seeking an update of an east-to-west aqueduct plan originally proposed in 1982.

A prolonged, brutal drought continues to cause devastating agricultural losses in western Kansas.

Drought is also worsening the drawdown of the Ogallala Aquifer, which is already 30 percent depleted.

Back-to-back drought years in 2011 and 2012 threatened the city of Wichita's municipal water supply in the spring of 2013.

Floods on the Missouri River almost annually ravage low-lying farms in both Kansas and Missouri.

Groundwater Management District #3 manager, Mark Rude, thinks a plan first proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1982 might help all of these situations.

Aqueduct from east to west

The prolonged drought is devastating agriculture in western Kansas. A proposed aqueduct would delivery water from the Missouri River entry into Kansas near St. Joseph, Missouri, to western Kansas, with a storage reservoir at either end.

GMD#3 and the Kansas Water Office have each pledged $50,000 to pay for an update of the old study to reflect current conditions and costs of building an aqueduct from the Missouri River entry into Kansas near St. Joseph, Mo. to western Kansas with a storage reservoir at either end.

Rude says the aqueduct could benefit all of Kansas, not just the farmers of western Kansas who stand to gain a source of renewable irrigation water if the project moves ahead.

The proposed path of the aqueduct, for example, would create an 80-mile long "lazy river" across the ridgeline of the scenic Flint Hills, providing potential for tourism development and recreational activities.

The route would also pass close enough to several existing reservoirs that their storage capacity could be utilized and water supplies assured to the municipal residents and industries that depend on them.

Aqueduct water could also be routed to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms Wetlands to assure the wildlife habitat they provide remains viable.

Finally, Rude says, the intake and storage reservoirs would provide additional wildlife habitat at both ends of the aqueduct, which would especially benefit western Kansas where existing surface water is almost non-existent.

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