A call to action from the Kansas governor and approval of a constitutional amendment in Texas has brought water conservation to the forefront in two of the nation’s top agricultural states that have dealt with severe drought in recent years.
At the second annual Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback called on the Kansas Water Office, Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas Water Authority to join forces with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and other groups over the next 12 months to develop a 50-year vision for water in Kansas. Articulating a sense of urgency, Governor Brownback said his state has been reminded of the importance of water with a third consecutive year of drought in portions of Kansas.
Governor Brownback directed the agencies to seek input from across the state and to finalize the plan by the next Governor’s Water Conference, which will be held in late fall 2014.
According to a news release from Governor Brownback’s office, the vision will focus on preserving water resources in the Ogallala High Plains Aquifer and restoring reservoir storage in the state.
“We are at a pivotal moment in our state. We can talk these issues to death, but without vision we won’t be able to address these priorities,” said Governor Brownback. “Ensuring each citizen has a reliable water supply includes addressing both the groundwater decline in the Ogallala Aquifer as well as securing, protecting and restoring our reservoir storage.”
A study conducted at Kansas State University forecast that the Ogallala Aquifer would be nearly 70 percent depleted in 50 years if current trends continue.
The Kansas Livestock Association weighed in on the call to action and said leaders and volunteers from the organization will engage in the process to “ensure the plan recognizes conservation systems the industry already has in place, as well as the economic benefit livestock operations provide to the local, state and national economies.”
Meanwhile in Texas, voters took to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 5, and approved a constitutional amendment, Proposition 6, to dedicate $2 billion from the state’s rainy day fund to establish a revolving fund to be used for reservoirs, pipelines and conservation efforts.
According to the Texas Water Development Board, the funds are designed to improve affordability of water project financing and to provide “consistent, ongoing state financial assistance for water supplies.”
Both the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association supported Proposition 6.
“During the legislative session, TCFA and other Texas agriculture groups worked hard to ensure that the needs of agriculture and rural areas will be funded as will the needs of our populous urban and suburban neighbors. At least 10 percent of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) must be allocated for rural political subdivisions and agriculture water conservation. Likewise, at least 20 percent of the SWIFT must be used to support water conservation and reuse efforts,” said Josh Winegarner, TCFA director of government relations. “Proposition 6 is a responsible step toward financing our state’s water infrastructure and does so without raising taxes or incurring additional debt.”
TSCRA President Pete Bonds issued a statement after Proposition 6 was approved and noted these funds will be especially important in long-term planning for water use and conservation in rural Texas communities.
“Ranchers know firsthand that because of drought, water has been a scarce resource. Proposition 6 is a necessary step in providing a mechanism to help finance our state’s water needs, so we can all can continue to have safe and reliable sources of water,” said Bonds. “TSCRA has worked hard to ensure that rural areas that support ranching families remain a priority when it comes to water, and Proposition 6 helps accomplish this.”