Dallas Morning News writer William McKenzie discussed the importance in water resource planning and collaboration in America ("Plan ahead on water," June 6 Opinion). McKenzie concluded that President Obama should "start pushing states to think ahead" about water resources planning.
Fortunately, Kansas is ahead of the curve.
For more than 50 years, we have recognized water's value and systematically considered our needs in planning for the future. Our efforts began in earnest after the floods and drought of the 1950s.
As authorized in the 1963 Water Resources Planning Act, the Kansas Water Plan is a comprehensive review of statewide water issues and needs, including resource matters identified by stakeholders across the state. The water plan was last revised in January 2009 and is a living document under continuous review.
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McKenzie exhorted governmental and stakeholder cooperation. Kansas' water planning efforts embrace both.
Further, the Kansas Water Office actively coordinates state, local and federal implementation of the water plan. The state water-related agencies work closely with federal agencies to ensure that mandates are met, available federal funds are utilized and water issues receive federal attention. The state has developed relationships that foster strong federal-state cooperation.
In addition, citizens have a distinct voice in water planning. One example is the Kansas Water Authority. The authority consists of 13 talented citizens representing various water interests working alongside state agency representatives on the water plan with the overall mission of advising the governor and Legislature.
In addition, local citizens in river basins across the state give advice on water issues and provide insight into local water needs by participating on advisory committees. Input from local organizations is important in the process as well. All citizens can become involved at some level by voicing concerns, supporting local leaders and becoming active on water issues.
Planning alone is not enough. Identified water needs must be addressed and plans implemented.
Since 1989, Kansas has dedicated funding to water resource planning, programs and projects through the Kansas Water Plan Fund. Numerous statewide programs and projects receive funding each year, including Wichita's aquifer recharge project and support of Ogallala Aquifer monitoring and conservation efforts.
While this dedicated funding is valuable, Kansas' water needs far outstrip the water plan fund's $20 million annual budget. In February, the Kansas Water Office presented the Reservoir Roadmap to the Legislature's Vision 2020 Committee. That report identified nearly $4 billion in needs over the next 40 years to protect and preserve the reservoir water supplies that provide drinking water to nearly two-thirds of our citizens. This is in addition to many other water resource priorities identified in the water plan. Planning and implementation require money — much more money than the water plan fund's mix of water fees and transfers provides.
In spite of the need for more input and money, Kansans should be heartened that our state has an established water planning effort. The Kansas Water Plan contains recommendations on how the state can best achieve the proper use and conservation of its water resources.
The plan serves as a guide for the coordination of local, state and federal water resource actions in Kansas — exactly the kind of effort called for in McKenzie's commentary.