New Kansas laws will help conserve water supplies
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed two new laws to help conserve the state’s water supplies threatened by a nearly two-year drought. Brownback said the laws would help extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer, the primary water source for agriculture in western Kansas, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.
One measure, House Bill 2451, ends a “use it or lose it” policy that pressured water-rights holders to use the maximum amount of groundwater, even in wet years, to keep their water rights. The change is designed to end overuse of water resources from the Ogallala Aquifer.
The other bill, Senate Bill 272, gives water rights holders more flexibility in how they use their water. It allows farmers and ranchers to spread the amount of groundwater they use over a five-year period. They can use more than a year’s allotment in dry years, with the extra water counted towards the total.
Brownback said the new laws give farmers and ranchers greater flexibility. He challenged them to conserve water resources for future generations.
“Those of you with substantial water permits, I am now asking you to step up on behalf of your children and grandchildren,” Brownback said, according to the newspaper. “I ask you, if you have options, don’t use the water. Save it for them.”
The Kansas Water Authority helped craft the new laws adopted this year by the state legislature. The changes come as western Kansas suffers under an extreme drought that has continued for almost two years. The drought has caused an estimated $2 billion in agriculture losses.
The focus of the crisis has been the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground reservoir depleted through overuse. State officials warn that dwindling water supplies could have serious economic consequences not just for agriculture, but also for industries in the state that rely on agricultural products.