Public sessions offer a chance to voice concerns

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

A second round of regional water supply meetings are upcoming across Kansas this week including several with ties to northwest Kansas.

Two meetings are scheduled for the Upper Republican basin while a single meeting is slated for the Great Bend Prairie region. All three will be Tuesday.

The upcoming meetings are in addition to eight already conducted last week in various locations around the state. A smattering of meetings also are planned toward the end of March.

All of the meetings are a result of the development of a statewide water vision -- a 50-year plan for where water supplies should be in the next 50 years.

The vision, already more than a year in the making, is an outgrowth of discussions involving the decline of water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer and the loss of storage space in federal reservoirs as a result of filling with silt as water runs off fields upstream.

When the Kansas Water Office unveiled the second draft of the water vision, however, it cast aside recommendations involving reductions and created 14 planning groups to look at local water issues.

Even as it hailed local control, the state water planning agency, essentially dictated how meetings would be conducted and developed questions for residents to answer rather than asking for suggestions and recommendations.

Tuesday's meetings will be in Goodland and Colby for the Upper Republican planning group, which encompasses Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur, Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan and Graham counties, along with small slices in Wallace, Logan and Gove counties.

The Goodland meeting is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Fire/EMS Building. The Colby meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the downtown Community building.

The Great Bend Prairie meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the J.A. Haas Building. That district includes most of Ness and Rush counties.

In the case of the Colby and Goodland meetings, four prearranged questions have been developed. They are:

* "What role should technology and new crop varieties play in future water supply?"

* "What level of water use should be pursued. Or, how long should the life of the aquifer be extended?"

* What role should water conservation and public eduction play in meeting future needs?"

* How can the state and local management encourage economic growth along with conservation?"

At the Larned meeting, just three questions are being posed:

* "How do you view water quality, chlorides and nutrients in connection with water supply?"

* "What role should water conservation (both irrigation and municipal) and public education play in meeting future needs?"

* "What level of water use should be pursued? Or, how long should the life of the aquifer be extended."

The final regional meeting will be at 7 p.m. March 26 at the 4-H Building in Phillipsburg for the Solomon-Republican planning group.

Ultimately, each planning committee will determine its list of regional issues. Those items will be presented to the Kansas Water Authority May 20 when it meetings in Greensburg.

After putting the information out for public comment, the KWA will decide in August at its meeting in Oakley, what will be forwarded to Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas Legislature.