water

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Few things are more valuable to a farmer in the arid West than irrigation water. Without it, the land turns back into its natural state: dry, dusty plains. If a fast-growing city is your neighbor, then your water holds even more value.

Farm families in Western states like California and Colorado are increasingly under pressure to sell their water. It’s been coined “buy and dry,” as water is diverted from farm fields and instead used to fill pipes in condos and subdivisions.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

The economy of western Kansas is based on the Ogallala Aquifer. But that ancient underground water supply is being rapidly depleted. The Kansas Water Office is teaming up with forward-looking farmers in an effort to demonstrate that new irrigation technologies can reduce the demand on the aquifer without sacrificing crop yields.

From mid-May through the end of August, a sound is heard almost non-stop in farm fields all across western Kansas. It’s the sound of an irrigation pump pulling water from deep underground to nourish thirsty crops. Tom Willis owns several of these wells.

usgs.gov

The City of Wichita says storms experienced last weekend dropped more than seven inches of rain in many places. While flooding did occur, the city's water supplies are at comfortable levels.

City officials report that the Cheney Reservoir, which the city relies on for much of its water supply, is so full that it's spilling out into flood pools. It’s quite the contrast to a few years ago, when the city was considering water-use restrictions as the reservoir was nearly half empty.

r. Vore / flickr Creative Commons

The City of Wichita is ending its annual water conservation rebate program after a year of providing energy-efficient appliances to customers.

In the program's fourth year, more than 800 of Wichita’s water customers received about $100,000 in rebates for purchasing energy-efficient washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, rain barrels and irrigation systems. Penny Feist with Wichita Public Works and Utilities says new appliances have a big impact on water conservation.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas owns water storage in 14 federal reservoirs managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the storage capacity of those lakes is gradually diminishing, as topsoil from waterways and farms upstream washes into the reservoirs and settles to the bottom.

As Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson explains, state officials recently began trying to extend the life of the eastern Kansas reservoir where the problem is most critical.

City of Wichita

Legislation that would ensure a safe drinking water supply in south-central Kansas passed the U.S. Senate today.

The legislation extends the authorization of federal funding for the Equus Beds Aquifer Recharge and Recovery Project by 10 years. The aquifer is the primary fresh water source for south-central Kansas and lies under parts of Sedgwick, Harvey, Reno and McPherson Counties.

mcdarius, flickr Creative Commons

The Global Learning Center of Wichita is hosting a series of talks this weekend about climate change and its threat to the world’s water and food supplies.

The nonprofit has been around since 1988 and is focused on presenting issues that affect people both in Kansas and around the world. The organization’s latest series of speakers will narrow in on climate change and what it’s doing to the world’s water and food supplies.

Pictoscribe, flickr Creative Commons

The City of Wichita begins it 2016 water rebate program on Monday. Water customers may receive some cash back for purchases that are easy on the water supply.

High-efficiency washing machines, dishwashers and toilets that use less water will qualify for the rebate and can earn their owner a $100 bonus from the city. In addition to those items, prospective recipients can report smart controllers for irrigation and sensors that detect rain and turn off automatic irrigation for the same amount.

Those who have bought a rain barrel can also apply for a rebate up to $75.

mcdarius, flickr Creative Commons

On Tuesday, President Obama vetoed a Congressional effort to halt changes to the Clean Water Act. As Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports many farm groups oppose the regulatory change.

The Obama Administration wants to alter a portion of the Clean Water Act to clarify the bodies of water that can be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some prominent farm groups worry the language is too vague and characterized the rule as an overreach by the EPA.

mcdarius, flickr Creative Commons

Kansas officials are considering tougher penalties for people who chronically exceed water supply consumption limits or don't report how much water is pumped from wells.

Susan Metzger is assistant secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, she talked about changing penalties Thursday before an interim legislative committee. She said the $250 fine for not reporting water use isn't much of a deterrent. She said overdrawing water for a year gets a written notice.

Metzger said the department hasn't determined how much penalties would rise, or when it would take effect.

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