Solutions for all Kansans to unfinished water business
Water projects that will make short and long-term differences in the lives of Kansans are ready to be put into action by the state’s water agencies and partners. The Water Plan Projects Initiative sets out projects to conserve and extend the life of the Ogallala-High Plains aquifer, protect and restore Kansas watersheds, assure coordinated water infrastructure development and trim debt for water storage in federal reservoirs.
“We must act now if we want to assure future generations of the luxury of abundant water and natural resources we now enjoy,” says Steve Irsik of Ingalls, chair of the Kansas Water Authority. The Water Plan Projects Initiative addresses 13 water resource issues and will be financed through the State Water Plan Fund, contingent on its restoration to its authorized funding level.
The Ogallala – High Plains aquifer initiative is designed to conserve and extend the life of the aquifer through management by aquifer subunits, so that management decisions can be made for local conditions. An incentive-based pilot program, the Irrigation Transition Assistance Program, would provide grants to irrigators who voluntarily convert to non-irrigated land use in high priority, water-short areas. The 2004 Kansas Legislature enacted legislation that allows the purchase of water rights and their permanent dismissal. The State Conservation Commission is charged with developing and implementing the pilot program.
A related project is control of invasive salt cedars and other non-native vegetation in the stream corridors that rob the aquifer of valuable recharge water. Another is development of irrigation management plans that will reduce the salt and selenium levels of Arkansas River water in Colorado and, in turn, Kansas.
The State Water Plan’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Strategy, or WRAPS, is a process designed to bring together members of the watershed community to identify watershed needs and goals, develop cost effective strategies and put them into action. Flood control, wildlife habitat and recreation complement water quality as WRAPS’ goals.
The regional public water supply strategy initiative looks broadly at Kansans’ drinking water needs. Strategies are being developed to make the best shared use of limited resources. It may mean voluntary system interconnections, voluntary water district boundary adjustments, shared treatment facilities, shared accounting or water district mergers.
Funding for the projects will come from the State Water Plan Fund. Unfortunately, it has been tapped since the beginning to pay for projects once funded by the State General Fund. The Kansas Water Authority recommends that the State start to reverse that trend this legislative session by restoring the demand transfer to the State Water Plan Fund from the State General Fund and returning two programs – Aid to Conservation Districts and stream gauging – to the State General Fund balance sheet. The total increased funding for these projects, $3.8 million, would be made available without increasing fees or taxes.
The Kansas Water Authority is a 24-member board made up of gubernatorial and legislative appointees representing various water interests. It provides advice to the Governor and members of the Legislature on water policy.
For more information on the Water Plan Projects Initiative, check out (At your option: Web address for your group) or www.kwo.org on the internet, or call the Kansas Water Office at 785-296-3185. “Water—Your Resource for Life.”