GARDEN CITY, Kan. — With little rain fall and a depleting Ogallala Aquifer, Western Kansas is in need of water. So, the state is taking a second look at a 30 year old plan to build an aqueduct.
“It would be moving Missouri River water, high flow water, not all of it, but some of the high flows out across Kansas to Western Kansas,” said Mark Rude, the Executive Director of the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 3.
Un-used run off from the Missouri River every year is 15 and a half times what Kansans consume in that time, so supporters’ thought is to move it somewhere it can be used.
“We’re not lacking water,” Rude said. “We’re lacking water infrastructure, to move the water to where we can really use it.”
The Director of the Kansas Water Office Tracy Streeter said the Missouri River is a source of excess water, but other parts of the state are in need of water. “That in and of itself makes sense to me to look into transferring this water,” he said.
The project wouldn’t be cheap. The highest proposed cost so far is $23 billion, but Rude said that could be seen as a tradeoff to protect business and agriculture in the state. “Kansas is going to have a cost for water, whether we do nothing, or whether we do something big like a major water transfer,” he said.
There has been negative reaction from landowners that could potentially be affected by reservoirs and water ditches. Many agriculture industry professionals are hoping the conversation can continue in a calm way while the state works to solve the water crisis.
“We are all understand it’s going to be a huge undertaking. It’s going to take cooperation from multiple states and multiple entities,” said Kirk Heger, the President of the Southwest Kansas Irrigation Association.
The Kansas Water Office is working to figure out final costs and where exactly the aqueduct would run. KWO said the study should be complete within a year, at that point it will go in front of the State Legislature.