Conservation Areas with Mike Meyer

(Mike Meyer) Hello, I’m Mike Meyer with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Division Water Resources at Garden City. I’m the Water Commissioner for Southwest Kansas, basically an agent for the chief engineer for this part of the state. Great to be at the Willis Farm which today we talked about technology, but also as far as my part, Water Conservation Areas. Water Conservation Areas were signed into law in 2015 by Governor Brownback. It’s a streamline voluntary plan that local producers can opt in to to reduce withdrawals and extend the life of a lot of the aquifer. We feel that if we can conserve today, that extends the life of aquifer for the future which allows you to stay in business longer, produce the crops longer and especially for those future generations. Again, it’s a voluntary plan for a water rights owner or a group of water rights owners to develop a plan and then it becomes an agreement with the chief engineer. Some of the benefits of a water conservation plan is that you control your destiny of your farm or a large area and there’s flexibilities that can be involved that’s not normally associated outside of Water Conservation Areas such as movement of water rights, combining allocations, there’s even an option of maybe potentially expanding irrigated acres. We’re looking to amend the current statute for next year to make those types of flexibilities more streamlined again to serve the producer better and have a real streamlined approach. If he’s interested in conserving water for his farm, then we want to make it as easy as possible and continue to be successful. We currently have three Water Conservation Areas across the state. First one is in Sherman County, which is the Franklin Family Farms, they’ve conserved in the past and they want to have that recognized and hold themselves to that in the future. We have Westside Dairy in Stanton County, which is a dairy/irrigation operation. They chose to cut back 15% of their average water use and what that allows them in that area, that we’ve extended the life for several years to keep that dairy in operation. Then we have the Willis Farm, which we’re at here today. Mr. Willis has cut his water use by 33% and with the technology that’s being developed, a three-year project; we have a three-year Water Conservation Area for this farm. As we learn about the benefits of this technology and ways to conserve, then Mr. Willis will use that and continue to conserve and apply those reductions for his water use and his water rights for the future. We’ve shown that with the conservation that he’s already done and even future conservation which he’s planning on, we can extend this farm up to 20 years that normally wouldn’t have been extended if he didn’t chose to start conserving today. So we’re very excited for these Water Conservation Areas. We have a lot of discussions, we’ve a lot of producers across the area, very busy and we hope to have a few more plans here soon that will be approved by the chief engineer and we hope to have many more. Again, it’s a way of controlling your destiny, developing a plan for your operation, for your goals and hopefully save water for the future. Whoever is interested in a Water Conservation Area or just want to discuss some ideas for their farm, you can come to our office in Garden City, which is 2508 John Street, or give us a call at 620-276-2901 or visit our website, which is agriculture.ks.gov/wca, which is a whole page entitled to water conservation areas. We’re open to have several discussions, you don’t have to commit yourself, we’re interested in hearing your ideas that may work for your farm because that gives us ideas for other farms in helping to promote conservation.

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