Environmental Protection

New Kansas Laws Enhance Conservation, Brownback Says

The fifth such bill the governor has signed into law recently is meant to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer by using groundwater management districts.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed five water conservation bills into law this year, including one meant to extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer. This was Senate Bill 310, the most recently signed bill among them. It establishes a process using groundwater management districts so local communities of producers can implement conservation plans.

"We must conserve our water so we can extend the useful life of the Ogallala Aquifer," Brownback said. "This tool allows Kansans to join together and offer up ideas that work on the local level. It allows them to work together on behalf of their children and grandchildren to provide solutions that will save water for the next generation." He urged groundwater management districts to begin identifying places where local enhanced management areas (LEMAs) may be a good fit.

According to a news release from Brownback's office, Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter, Groundwater Management District Four Manager Wayne Bossert, and Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources Chief Engineer Dave Barfield attended the bill signing. "The Local Enhanced Management Areas is an option that Kansans asked for, and we already have a groundwater management district moving forward with a LEMA proposal," Barfield said.

The other four bills are:

  • House Bill 2451, which eliminates the state's "use it or lose it" water policy in areas closed to new water right appropriations.
  • Senate Bill 272, which amends multi-year flex accounts to expand irrigators' capabilities and options so they can manage their crop water over a five-year period without increasing long-term water use under their water right.
  • HB 2516, which amends the state's water banking program and allows additional water banks to be developed where local producers want to use them.
  • HB 2517, which extends the sunset to make the voluntary, incentive-based Water Transition Assistance Program (WTAP) by 10 years to the year 2022 and makes other improvements to it. The program facilitates permanent dismissal of irrigation water rights and reduced consumption of groundwater in focused, over-appropriated areas.

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