MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback said he is optimistic that Kansans will change past practices and adopt new technologies to help preserve the state’s water resources.
During the annual Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water this week in Manhattan, the governor predicted increased public support for sustainable irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer and better management practices to reduce damage to the state’s reservoirs, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported .
He also said he expects widespread use of technology to monitor soil moisture levels and other conservation practices will reduce water consumption and expand crop yields. And he said stream-bed restoration projects could slow the flow of nitrogen and phosphorus from fields that choke reservoirs with sediment and contributes to algae-bloom problems.
“We’ve got to keep working on the water issue,” Brownback said. “That’s going to be central. That’s going to be the key for us.”
Brownback, who is expected to leave office pending approval of his nomination to be ambassador of international religious freedom, said Kansas landowners don’t need the government to adopt sustainable consumption of water practices and to do what is necessary to supply the world with food, fiber and fuel.
“We know what we need to do. Let’s just get it done,” Brownback said. “What can I do in my operation, on my farm or in my community to save the water? I don’t need to have somebody else to tell me what to do.”
Brownback praised the Kansas Legislature for repealing a state law requiring irrigation water rights to be used or risk losing the privilege. Lawmakers in 2013 also agreed to allow water-right owners to form a Local Enhanced Management Area, or LEMA, to limit water use in a specific region to reduce groundwater decline.
LEMAs established since then cover only about 5 percent of territory marked by the Ogallala and less than one-fourth of vulnerable stream banks leading to reservoirs have been addressed, said Earl Lewis, assistant director of the Kansas Water Office.
He said sedimentation at Tuttle Creek Reservoir near Manhattan has dropped from 4,400 acre feet per year to about 3,500 acre feet per year. Dredging of John Redmond Reservoir in Coffey County is a promising start to a long-term reclamation effort, he said.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Lewis said. “There’s never going to be enough federal and state money. We’ve got to motivate people to take action themselves.”