Authorities trying to set up a plan for dealing with dwindling water resources in Kansas say it’s unclear how much the state is willing to spend to solve the problem.
Gov. Sam Brownback in October called for development of a 50-year water plan that would meet Kansas residents’ needs and extend the life of the Ogallala High Plains Aquifer in western Kansas. Since then, officials from the Kansas Water Office, the Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas Water Authority have held nearly 100 sessions and met with more than 4,500 people across the state to discuss water.
Their draft plan for meeting the long-term water needs of the state is to be put together by October.
Earl Lewis, assistant director of the Kansas Water Office, told The Lawrence Journal-World that many people want to improve water efficiency, tap into crop varieties that require less water and identify new water sources, all of which cost money.
Some estimates have pegged the cost of a new reservoir at $500 million. A proposed pipeline to transfer water from the Missouri River to western Kansas would cost billions of dollars, although a specific price has not been determined.
“The question we have not answered yet is what is the level of funding people will be comfortable with, and where will that revenue come from,” Lewis said.
The issue comes at a time when lawmakers have already dipped into the water fund to pay for other budget items. State Rep. Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Republican, said an annual $6 million appropriation from the state general fund has been suspended for the past six years. Sloan, chairman of the House Vision 2020 Committee, said there has been no agreement on how to provide funding for future water needs.
“The consensus is it should be a broad-based funding stream, but there hasn’t been a coalition coalescing around what that means,” Sloan said.