Water conservation takes center stage in Kansas, Texas

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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.

Severe drought impacted all of Kansas in summer 2012Mary SoukupSevere drought impacted all of Kansas in summer 2012. 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.”

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Texas  |  November, 08, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Mark my words. Organizing these disparate groups for 50 year "plans" for future water use, based on today's heavily politicized (pro-global warming) pseudo-science, ranges from frivolous, to ludicrous. A seldom reported factoid: THE OGALLALA STILL HAS 70 % OF IT'S ORIGINAL AMOUNT OF WATER. Aligning these groups will result in NOTHING more than a power structure able to obliterate PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERSHIP, INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, in favor of the COLLECTIVE...nevertheless today's level of ag production due to the Ogallala will eventually phase down. Good grief, do you think you are going to breed a steer that can feed out to 1200 # on half the water - or a dairy cow that can produce a profitable amount of milk on half the water intake? I'm a corn farmer, I know how these new hybrids advertised to yield on less irrigation water turn out - therefore on that front it seems we have hit the wall. I don't need government entities, even local ones, managing MY resource.

Texas  |  November, 29, 2013 at 04:20 PM

You're right, to a certain extent. Livestock and crops require lots of water. That's a simple and unchangeable fact, regardless of what the geneticists or politicians say. And though I understand your reluctance to accept it, climate change is a FACT; it is happening. Maybe not our fault, it might just be natural climate variations... but even so, the climate is progressively getting warmer. For Texas, that means it will also stay dry and thirsty. Also, the Ogallala isn't just a question of volume; it's a water quality issue. The more water we use, the further we deplete the reservoir, the deeper we need to go for water, and the higher the concentration of minerals that we'll draw into the water. That means you'll eventually be irrigating your fields with salt water or with high levels of radioactive minerals or something else along those lines. That's why we need to properly manage the water resources. I'm not saying our government has always been perfect. But there has to be some sort of framework in place to help people manage their own resources. And this fund isn't meant to take individual freedoms; it's meant to support conservation and innovation. Uses of water that are more efficient; new decontamination systems; that sort of thing. Without such a framework, it's going to turn into a war between neighbors over which farmers get to irrigate, and the losers can just move to someplace that gets more rain than Texas. But yes I do think, without a doubt, that the local communities and growers MUST play a big part in managing the water resources in the area. Every decision has consequences, and those who will be affected by the consequences should have a say in the process and not just those who benefit

US  |  November, 08, 2013 at 04:24 PM

The one thing not being mentioned is one of the biggest issues pertaining to water usage. Muslims and Mexicans are coming in here by the millions legally - and illegally. BOTH of those cultures believe in welfare supporting their lives and families and they BOTH breed at a rate that FAR surpasses the White American culture. They will use 10 times the water WE do. Maybe someone should be thinking about the desire to keep importing these cultures?

Bea Elliott    
Florida  |  November, 09, 2013 at 12:57 AM

But becky - If it weren't for these Mexicans and Muslims who would stab your cows? Somebody's got to work the kill floor. I know it won't be my son and I doubt you want that future for yours either. Maybe the solution for water waste is not to breed cows/meat to begin with?

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