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A 50-year vision for Kansas water

By KATIE INGELS and BETH RIFFEL

50-Year Water Visioning Team

Looking back through history, specific generations have become known for key achievements, traits and ideals. Stereotypes are broadly applied across the United States but what about us? What will this generation of Kansans be remembered for? It could be for putting personal politics and differences aside, rolling up our sleeves and working together to ensure future generations of Kansans have a reliable source of water to fuel our state's economy.

In calling for the development of a 50-Year Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback put it best when he said, "Water and the Kansas economy are directly linked. Water is a finite resource and without further planning and action we will no longer be able to meet our state's current needs, let alone growth."

He's right. The writing is on the wall and if we don't act today, our future is bleak.

The Ogallala Aquifer is declining faster than it is recharging. Reservoirs, which are critical water storage structures for much of our state, are filling with sediment. At this rate, with no changes in the next 50 years, the Ogallala will be 70 percent depleted and our reservoirs will be 40 percent filled with sediment.

The drought over the past three years has brought water issues to the forefront; we must plan for the future now.

That is what the Kansas Water Office, Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas Water Authority are doing. A Visioning Team has been established and is embarking on a one-year mission to seek input from water users, compile data, conduct research and chart a path forward.

It will not be easy. Some believe it's too late to save the Ogallala. There are differing ideas about how to better manage reservoirs and surface water.

We need to develop plans to ensure a reliable water supply for all Kansans, improve water quality, reduce our vulnerability to extreme events, like floods and drought, develop and maintain water infrastructure and improve recreational opportunities available to our citizens.

We need your help and input in this process. Give us your feedback and ideas during town hall meetings and through other outreach events.

Be a part of the solution.

If we are successful, future generations will look back on the work we do this year and say that's the generation of Kansans who worked together to protect and conserve the state's water resources today and for the future.

To submit your own comment or get more information, visit www.kwo.org.

Katie Ingels is communications director with the Kansas Water Office, and Beth Riffel is in the communications department of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.