Governor Sam Brownback opened the annual Governor’s Water Conference on the future of water in Kansas with a call to action.
Brownback was speaking Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center in Manhattan.
“We are at a pivotal moment in our state,” he said. “We can talk these issues to death, but without vision we won’t be able to address these priorities. 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.”
Brownback said he wants the Kansas Water Office, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Water Authority, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Council of Economic Advisors, Kansas State University, Water Districts and other local water governing agencies to create a document that addresses a 50-year vision for Kansas water that meets the state’s needs now and in the future.
He said the document needs to be on his desk for presentation to the legislature by Nov. 1, 2014.
The vision is to take the Kansas Water Plan “to a new level with more intense work and cooperation with communities, affected industries and citizens throughout the state to ensure a reliable water supply for Kansas citizens,” Brownback said.
The governor insisted that if no action is taken over the next 50 years, 70 percent of the aquifer will be depleted, 40 percent of irrigated farmland won’t be able to support irrigation wells, 40 percent of the reservoirs will be filled with sediment, and five of the seven water basins in Kansas will not be able to support water demands during a drought.
Brownback said 30 percent of the aquifer is currently depleted and 20 percent of the reservoirs have been filled with sediment.
“We have an issue. We have a problem. We need to work together to fix it,” he said.
The conference has drawn than 550 attendees representing water interests across the state.
It continues for the next two days at the Hilton.