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Local groundwater management districts and Kansas state agencies share authority and responsibility for transition to long term management of the High Plains Aquifer




Huntzinger, Thomas L., author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Kansas faces complex challenges in managing the Ogallala-High Plains aquifer for the future. This aquifer, one of the largest in the world, is critical to a sustainable economy for Kansas and the other seven states that rely on it. Kansas withdraws between 3 and 4.5 million acre feet annually from this source for irrigation of corn, sorghum, and alfalfa that supports some of the largest livestock feeding and meat packing industries in the world. Overall declines of the aquifer, which occurred in about one generation of family farmers, threatens an economy that is projected to no longer be possible in 50 to 100 years in many areas and less than 25 years in some areas. Established rates of withdrawal exceed natural recharge by such large amounts that very large decreases in use must be considered to achieve any measurable decrease in depletion. An urgent need to begin a transition to a less water intensive economy has motivated organizations representing local water users and state agencies to cooperate in a proactive management strategy. Under this strategy, three local ground water management districts have been given the responsibility for developing a protocol for more intensive management. The protocol includes defining hydrologic sub-units, determining priority sub-areas to focus implementation activities, and setting goals for extending the life of the aquifer to protect the economy. Local Groundwater Management Districts and state agencies are working cooperatively to ensure that regulatory authorities of the Division of Water Resources and the policies of the state support local efforts through the State Water Plan developed by the Kansas Water Office.


Presented during the Third international conference on irrigation and drainage held March 30 - April 2, 2005 in San Diego, California. The theme of the conference was "Water district management and governance."

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