GARDEN CITY – For farmers in Kansas, water and water use are a hot topic that affects their financial condition.
The problem is simple. Farmers draw water from the soil for crop production. Water is pumped out of aquifers faster than replenished. The Ogallala Aquifer is the groundwater source in the region.
State and federal authorities have mandates that they must comply with regarding water use.
Farmers are faced with the fact that they may need to reduce their water consumption to prevent drainage from the aquifers. How can farmers, state and federal agencies work together to find water consumption solutions that conserve water for today and tomorrow without putting an economic strain on agriculture?
At the Winter Water Technology Expo in Garden City on January 9, Stephen Lauer, a PhD student at Kansas State University who had a PhD in sociology, researched attitudes to groundwater management. Across the Ogallala region, including 279 in Kansas, 1,226 producers were surveyed, focusing on a variety of farm sizes and types. Forty-one Kansas producers were interviewed and a case study of Wichita County's water conservation area focused on voluntary group conservation.
Why do farmers have to save water? The answer is simple but crucial.
"We're running out of water," said Lauer.
This is a challenge for agriculture in Kansas and rural communities.
He found two main problems in groundwater management. Voluntary group efforts contribute effectively to the conservation of groundwater and should be supported. Technology is most effective when used with a local commitment to conservation.
Lauer developed five recommendations for voluntary group work: diverse advocacy; an early focus on team building; hire an external intermediary; frequent and respectful public relations; Partner with the state and local government.
With his research, Lauer wanted to find out what the producers did in the field of water protection. His findings included: 95% of producers support groundwater protection. Reasons for preservation are: 84% agree to safeguard the lifestyle of future generations; 68% agree that it supports local communities; 72% agree that it is important to prepare for droughts.
Many producers are already working on saving water, but feel that they have reached their limits. Around 72% of producers believe that they are already saving as much water as possible.
Kansas Agriculture Secretary Mike Beam said Finney County producers are working to save water. About 25% of water rights holders have voluntarily made water saving agreements.
Beam said the most exciting thing he saw was developing a technology that would allow manufacturers to more accurately determine water consumption. The Kansas Water Office and the Division of Water Resources are working together on this issue. Water technology farms were established to continue technological development.