Farm Factor – 50 Year Water Plan

(Conrad) AG am in Kansas recently had the opportunity to talk with Tracy Streeter in downtown Topeka at the Kansas Water Office. We discussed his concern for the first draft of the Water Vision Plan. According to studies done for the Water Plan, without action the Ogallala Aquifer will be nearly depleted by 2065 and Kansas reservoirs will be almost halfway filled with sediment. (Tracy) We’re going to see sediment accumulations in our reservoirs. The aquifer will just be depleted by 70 percent in 50 years if we don’t make any changes from what we’re currently doing. Our reservoir system will be 40 percent filled with sediment in 50 years if we don’t take action to slow down the rate of sediment accumulation. (Conrad) Sediment accumulation occurs when a river is still behind a dam. The sediment it picks up sinks to the bottom of the reservoir. Over time a river’s total sediment load captured by the dam, notice its trap efficiency, increase to large amounts, especially those with large reservoirs. As the sediments accumulate in the reservoir the dam gradually loses its ability to store water for the purpose for which it was built. Every reservoir loses storage to sedimentation, although the rate at which this happens varies widely. Despite more than six decades of research, sedimentation is still the most serious technical problem faced by a dam industry and a big problem the Water Vision Plan tries to tackle. The Water Plan aims to help farmers in the Ogallala Aquifer and all denizens of the state to develop better water practices. (Tracy) Well, the farmers in the Ogallala as far as slowing down that rate of decline, conservation is the real, only solution to extending the life of that aquifer. Technology will help in adapting to less water consumption by more efficient irrigation systems and moisture measurement techniques that will allow farmers to apply less water, but yet still continue to raise the crops with the yields that they anticipate currently. As far as the reservoir system, things that, not just farmers, but any land managers and all folks that live in a water shed above a reservoir, can adopt practices that will slow down erosion. Soil erosion off of farmland, development sites, highway runoff, etc. all contribute to sediment issues that go into our reservoirs. But primarily conservation as far as the Ogallala is concerned is the key to getting, slowing down that rate of decline and extending the life of the aquifer. (Conrad) The plan suggests conservation efforts target education programs for students in grades K through 12 and youth organizations, as well as adult outreach through university extension services and other academic programs. Other recommendations include building or renovating state owned facilities to meet stricter water efficiency standards, and more assistance to fix leaks in public water supply systems. Another wave of the plan involves new technologies for more efficient crop irrigation. (Tracy) There’s a lot of emerging technologies. Irrigation efficiency, there continues to be efforts to try to make improvements there and I think we may be on the cutting edge of some new stuff. When we get those available to us, we certainly want to get those out, showcase them and do everything we can to get them in the hands of our irrigators so they can adopt the latest technologies and save water. (Conrad) After the break we visit with producers and capture their reactions to the plan and have more details about the Kansas Water Office. Stay tuned.

(Conrad) AG am in Kansas recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting with the KDA Water Office about the Kansas Water Vision Plan. Many ag professionals and producers were at the meeting and we had the opportunity to talk to them and their opinion about the plan. (Ryan) I’m Ryan Flickner Senior Director of Public Policy for Kansas Farm Bureau. Grew up on a farm in McPherson County. Well first off, I just appreciate the governor for allowing all Kansans from all corners of the state to really hone in on what our future of water is, both in the Ogallala and the reservoir system throughout eastern Kansas. I guess from the preliminary or the preliminary draft document, it does have some concerning items in there. I think there’s a lot of items that we can all rally as Kansans behind. It is very easy to say we’re all for extending the useful life of reservoirs if that’s by dredging or steam bank protection to keep sedimentation from coming back in the reservoirs. I think that’s good. I think the challenge will be, where do we get the funding from? I was very appreciative of the Secretary and the Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter, both mentioning that you know funding is an issue. They haven’t really spent much time addressing it now because we wanted to figure out what the bigger pictures were. But specifically within the draft I guess a couple of areas of concern include possibly opening the Water Appropriations Act. We’ve got 70 years of water law in Kansas and plenty of case law that we’ll fall back on, on that. Also, I think there are some challenges in there, or talking about possibly limiting diversions or points of diversions up to 300 hundred feet There’s just some outlying questions that Kansas Farm Bureau we’re certainly going to continue to ask the Secretary and the Governor. (Conrad) Next we talk with Katie Miller, who is an environmentalist/ conservation expert from the Kansas Lower Republican Basin Advisory Committee. She talks to us on her concern about the conservations plans. (Katie) The conservation and development of new water supply hits very close home to me with not only my position as a stakeholder in the water shed but also with roles of municipalities that I work with. Conservation and education is going to continue to be a huge element to making this plan successful. The State of Kansas, the agencies have already done a fantastic job in coming together and collaborating to know what the issues are, but I think they are going to need a lot of help, a lot of push to have a successful campaign to get the message out to the public who are not as in tune to water issues. And we really have to make it clear, concise and simple as to why it matters and how it’s going to impact them moving forward. On the municipal side, as we all know, infrastructure is a huge issue and developing new sources is going to continue to be more and more important as droughts continue. So, I think just continued support from municipalities not only on a funding side, but on a management side to help them understand the value of planning for sustainability, not only on the water supply side, but also on just the overall management of the utility to continue to be able to prosper for the future. (Conrad) Sarah Sexton- Bowser is a Regional Field Director for both the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission and the United Sorghum Program. She weighs in on her opinion about the KDA Water Vision Plan. (Sarah) I’m a native Kansan, grew up in central Kansas on a dairy farm, now grain farm. Now I live in northeast Kansas, where my husband and I have a diversified grain operation. I spend my time during the day though, working for Kansas Grain Sorghum farmers. I work as a Regional Field Director for both the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. As I look at the Plan, I really commend the state for taking an approach to not only preserve and protect our water supply for the next 50 years, but also doing it in a way that sustains our economic and our economy here in Kansas. So a major theme that really surfaces for me personally in accomplishing both of those objectives is the crop technologies and varieties section. That section lays out a number of options, a number of outcomes, but one in particular is investing in good water conserving crops, such as grain sorghum. Grain sorghum is an excellent option that is very viable for farmers when they’re looking at limited water situations. So I appreciate that the document points out grain sorghum and its water efficiency in particular, as well as the need to further invest in the crop and further grow the opportunities that sorghum farmers have as they look at preserving water, but also preserving the economy that we have here in Kansas. (Tracy) To me I think it’s very preliminary to have any too strong of a reaction to it. It was our attempt to capture what the public told us and what stakeholders told us and our five to six month public input process on the front end of this. We did our best to try to capture what we heard and now this is an opportunity to validate that. Did we get it right? Did we miss something? Is something in there that shouldn’t be? Clarify, etc. So, this round of public meetings and then the discussions we’ll have over the summer will make additional improvements to the preliminary discussion draft.

 

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