MANHATTAN — Dealing with Kansas’ water needs can’t wait, Sam Brownback said.
The governor played host to a conference on the future of water in Kansas Thursday and Friday in Manhattan, drawing on recent severe drought conditions in the state to emphasize the importance water plays in Kansans’ lives — now and in the future.
“We have been reminded of the importance of water with another year of extreme drought for our state, which is now beginning to ease in eastern Kansas, but continues to persist in the west,” Brownback said. “Water and the Kansas economy are directly linked. Water is a finite resource, and without further planning and action we will no longer be able to meet our state’s current needs, let alone growth.”
The governor charged his administration — including the Kansas Water Office, Kansas Department of Agriculture, and Kansas Water Authority, along with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and Wildlife, Parks and Tourism — to lead a 50-year vision for Kansas water.
“We are at a pivotal moment in our state. We can talk these issues to death, but without vision we won’t be able to address these priorities,” he said. “Ensuring each citizen has a reliable water supply includes addressing both the groundwater decline in the Ogallala Aquifer as well as securing, protecting and restoring our reservoir storage.”
Brownback set a Nov. 1, 2014, deadline for the groups to deliver the vision plan.
“We need the help of all those here today, and the help of every Kansan, to place this vital resource as a top priority for our future,” Gary Harshberger, Kansas Water Authority chairman, said. “We can see how bleak our future can be if we continue on this same path.”
Brownback has made the state’s issues a priority, acting early in his administration’s tenure to address such concerns as water rights and needs, particularly in the western portion of Kansas.