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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • Water becoming huge issue in Kansas

  • About 100 people — leaders from their respective communities — gathered Thursday at the Meridian Center to talk about water, and how that simple hydrogen/oxygen cocktail will affect the future of Kansas.
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  • By Chad Frey
    The Newton Kansan
    About 100 people — leaders from their respective communities — gathered Thursday at the Meridian Center to talk about water, and how that simple hydrogen/oxygen cocktail will affect the future of Kansas.
    "The key to economic prosperity is making sure there is a steady stream of quality to our water supply," said Sen. Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) during a panel discussion.
    The conference was hosted by the Regional Economic Area Partnership. REAP currently has representation from 30 local governments — 25 cities and five counties. [Wellington and Conway Springs are current members.]
    An overarching theme of the conference is an initiative by Gov. Sam Brownback, who has asked for the creation of a 50 year water plan for the state.
    "Water, in the next 50 years, will become as important as oil was the last 50 years," said Rep. Will Carpenter (R-El Dorado). "If we don't do something about this now, our children and grandchildren will ask us 'what were you thinking.'"
    The first draft of the 50 year water plan is due July 7. Once that is complete, there will be a series of 12 meetings statewide for public discussion of the plan. Writers of the plan will revise it, with a final draft due Nov. 12 for the Governor's Water Conference.
    The Kansas Water Office has hosted of dozens local meetings about water, meeting with thousands of people. The leaders working on the
    vision are asking local citizens from various parts of the state what they want their water resource to look like in 50 years.
    So far, there is no one answer.
    "There will not be a one size fits all solution," said Mike Armstrong, general manager of WaterOne, the largest water utility in Kansas headquartered in Lenexa. "The issues of western Kansas and eastern Kansas are completely different."
    In western Kansas legislative action allowed for the creation of Local Enhanced Management Areas, or LEMAs. LEMAs are public-driven and allow irrigators and other water users in Kansas' groundwater management districts to establish groundwater conservation policies.
    Also discussed Thursday is the Kansas water rights system. Water rights are real property rights attached to the land upon which the water is used. In Kansas, a water right permit is required to use water for any beneficial use, such as for irrigation or any municipal or industrial use.
    According to statistics given by Art Hall, Director of the Center of Applied Economics at the University of Kansas, agricultural irrigation uses the most water in the state — 8.33 times more than all other industrial uses combined.
    "And that is fine, but that doesn't show you where water is going," Hall said. "This is where a lot valuable water is used."
    Overall, agriculture accounts for 67 percent of the water used statewide, municipalities 24 percent.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Water does not affect only agriculture, but all Kansans," said Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita).

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