MOVING FROM INFORMATION TO ACTION: CONSERVING THE KANSAS HIGH PLAINS AQUIFER
As a prior appropriation state, individual water right owners can seek to protect their senior water right through an impairment complaint to the State’s Chief Engineer or through the courts. However, a collective effort has the potential for more significant conservation of a common pool resource, such as an aquifer. State developed solutions have met widespread resistance. A new Ogallala aquifer initiative supports stakeholders to develop local conservation plans with specific goals, corrective measures and rules. The conversation changes from “what will the state require us to do”, to “what do we want for our future”. Through the process, stakeholders discuss their concerns, vision for the future, and actions they support for their region. Locally developed plans lead to greater commitment for success. The process requires a great deal of effective engagement between the stakeholders, water managers, and geo- and ag- scientists. Communicating the aquifer conditions and use is vital to the discussions and tracking of progress. Kansas collects and makes available online information on water right allocations, annual water use, and water level changes, including projected “estimated useable life” remaining for various levels of groundwater pumping. The first Local Enhanced Management Area went into effect in 2013. Ordered by the Chief Engineer, the plan is legally enforced. State and federal agencies and University Research and Extension support the plan with technical assistance, crop insurance and cost share programs. More regions are in active discussion.