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Reservoir storage, Ogallala depletion top water plan priorities

Ogallala Aquifer
WATER PRIORITIES: Worries about loss of reservoir storage to sedimentation and the continued depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer continue to be top priorities for those tasked with taking steps to assure that Kansas will have an adequate water supply to meet future needs.
At its August meeting, the Kansas Water Authority received updates on the state's water priorities.

The State Water Plan Fund budget and the State of the Resource reports for surface and groundwater were the focus of the August meeting of the Kansas Water Authority, as the agency received updates on water priorities in Kansas.

State Water Plan Fund budget priorities for the coming fiscal years were approved with an emphasis on moving priority projects forward that focus on implementing the Long-Term Vision for the Future of Water Supply in Kansas.

Many of the priority projects are targeted to address issues found in the SOTR reports, a comprehensive compilation of the state’s water resources. The newly released SOTR reports were presented for each region of the state to KWA. The purpose of these reports is to provide background and the most up-to-date water data and facts available to monitor progress on meeting regional and statewide water goals.

"These are intended to inform and educate Kansans about the true issues our regions face with their water supply," says Tracy Streeter, Kansas Water Office director. "While good things are happening in the regions there is so much more to do, and we need Kansans to understand why water has to be a priority for our state. These will be updated each year and serve as the resource for those making decisions about our water future."

Each SOTR has implementation needs and action plans that are key to help guide KWA for establishing budget priorities as well as current conditions of surface water and groundwater within each regional area. For example, in the Kansas River region, loss of reservoir storage is decreasing the basin’s water supply, making it insufficient to meet projected drought demands by 2057. Tuttle Creek Lake is key to the Kansas region’s water supply and has lost more than 40% of its original storage. KWA is recommending funding to move forward with an innovative project to pass more of the sediment through the reservoir and extend the supply.

The Upper Arkansas SOTR included information from water level measurements that show groundwater levels have an average annual decline of approximately two feet over the past decade. The regional priority goal for this area is to extend the usable lifetime of the Ogallala Aquifer for at least 25 years and slow the depletion of the aquifer by 25% in 10 years through the promotion of Local Enhanced Management Areas and Water Conservation Areas as well as other tools. To date, 2% of the total irrigated acres are in a water conservation program to help conserve and extend the groundwater supply. KWA is recommending $500,000 be appropriated to assist in irrigation technology, and another $250,000 for Water Technology Farms that demonstrate to producers how they can conserve water and maintain, or improve, their bottom line.

While only one eastern and western regional planning area is described as an example, each of the 14 SOTR have issues vital to their regional that need to be addressed. The complete reports for each region can be found on the Kansas Water Office website.

KWA is responsible for advising the governor, state Legislature and director of the Kansas Water Office on water policy issues. They also ensure that water policies and programs address the needs of all Kansans as well as serve as advisers of the Kansas Water Vision and Kansas Water Plan. KWA was established in 1981 and consists of 13 voting members who are appointed by the governor or Legislative leadership. State agency directors serve as ex-officio members.

The next meeting will be held in Wichita in December. KWA meetings are held throughout the year and for additional information and other upcoming meetings, visit kwo.ks.gov.

Source: Kansas Water Office

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