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State's first LEMA proposal approved

Special to The Hays Daily News

TOPEKA -- Gov. Sam Brownback announced Wednesday the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources has approved the first Local Enhanced Management Area in Kansas. Proposed by Groundwater Management District 4 in northwest Kansas, Sheridan 6 LEMA will be located in Sheridan and Thomas counties.

The LEMA process is a central component of legislation supported by Brownback in 2012 to reform multiple Kansas water statutes. It allows GMDs to initiate a public hearing process to consider locally developed LEMA proposals aimed at conserving water resources while also meeting local needs.

"The approval of the Sheridan 6 LEMA proposal is great news for GMD 4 as well as for the state. The innovative leaders in GMD 4 have worked diligently with their stakeholders to identify a plan to reduce water use during the next five years and increase the economic value of each acre-foot that is pumped," Brownback said. "We look forward to continuing to work with GMD 4 and encourage other GMDs to consider initiating the LEMA process as well. This is an important step in our goal to shift the mindset from one of 'use it or lose it' to a culture of water conservation in Kansas."

According to the order approving the proposal, the GMD's plan to reduce water use within the Sheridan 6 LEMA by approximately 20 percent during the next five years will serve the public interest by conserving water and, thus, extending the useful life of the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a top priority for Brownback. Beginning Jan. 1, all water use within the LEMA boundaries will be included in the five-year allocations established by the Sheridan 6 LEMA.

The Sheridan 6 LEMA proposal also provides significant flexibility to allow water users to maximize the economic benefits of the reduced supply. The LEMA is expected to reduce water use by approximately 28,000 acre-feet during the next five years. An acre-foot is approximately 325,000 gallons, which will result in total water savings of almost 10 billion gallons.

GMD 4 submitted the Sheridan 6 LEMA proposal on July 16 to DWR for consideration. Since then, it has been the subject of two public hearings, which took place in September and November.

A more detailed order of designation will be issued in the coming weeks. It will include the specifics of the corrective control provisions, monitoring and evaluation of the LEMA.

A copy of the order can be found online at tinyurl.com/axlh35r.