Bone-dry southwest Kansas enjoyed a nice rain Dec. 14.
It was the first measurable precipitation in many days, and badly needed in a region and state all too familiar with drought.
In early December, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported all of Kansas in some degree of drought, with about 36 percent in the “exceptional drought” category and another 42 percent in the second-worst “extreme drought” category.
And southwest Kansas typically finds itself on the short end of that stick.
Discussions on how to deal with ongoing drought are common, naturally, and usually center on farming. Agriculture does indeed sap the most water from the Ogallala Aquifer as area farmers do their best to grow crops.
But scrutiny of water use has to extend beyond farm fields. Water pulled from the aquifer also goes to homes, businesses and industries, and for such recreational opportunities as parks and golf courses.
The trick is in finding the proper balance between water conservation and economic growth. It’s a complex problem that should be tackled from many angles.
With water being pulled from the ground faster than it can be replenished, everyone has a vested interest in the issue. So, it was encouraging to hear that representatives of the Groundwater Foundation, a Nebraska-based nonprofit group, recently were in Garden City to engage representatives of local government, businesses and other organizations in a conversation on the possibility of a community plan to encourage better water conservation methods.
A similar program launched locally several years ago failed to gain traction. Still, it’s worth a try again, as a way to engage local residents in doing more to help alleviate the drain on a precious resource.
Western Kansas — and indeed all of Kansas — has no future without a dependable supply of water. While agricultural water use will remain a chief area of concern, strategies to encourage conservation by everyone — not just farmers — are essential if this region is to stay viable.
Stepped-up education and awareness in a way being proposed by the Groundwater Foundation could foster more buy-in and lead to new strategies. The community should be eager to pursue such a possibility.
— The Garden City Telegram