Sunday, February 27, 2011


I can't tell you how many times I've heard it said, or seen it in writing:  "That area should quit overpumping the groundwater" or something very similar. I'm sure you've heard it too.  Well, any area that has aquifer declines large enough to be that obvious is well beyond sustainable yield.  That's because the well development generally took place decades ago - before groundwater modeling that could predict these impacts became widely used.  In reality the true impacts of well development and groundwater pumping is initially masked and not at all obvious.  Due to the groundwater lag effect, it can take decades before the development starts to affect stream baseflows, which is one way the declines become noticed as serious.  I'd hazzard a guess that in most groundwater overdevelopment cases that are considered serious enough to address, it'd take a minimum of 40% less pumping to even make a dent - and remember, that's once the declines are discovered, quantified, and the permitting of new wells gets properly addressed - if it ever does.

If this is the case, you can see how difficult such a decision would be to any such area. If you can imagine the impact a 40, 50 or 60% reduction in water use within your City or County might have, then maybe you can be a bit more compassionate.  And if you can't imagine such an impact, then you have no business partaking in the discussions.  I can promise you, if it was that easy to do it'd have already been done.  It simply doesn't help to stand out there offering disparaging comments and acting judgmental and disappointed.

We're working on it.  I'd appreciate some honest, well intentioned help, or your quiet understanding.  My phone number is 785-462-3915.  Talk to me!


  1. Keep the work up. If I had the answers you wouldn't be making this blog post. I know you ask for well intentioned help or quiet understanding, but what about vocal support and understanding?

  2. Russell: Thank you for your comments. Yes, some vocal support every now and then would be great too - especially if it is provided to those outside the effort being critical.

    The reality is, that managing groundwater is quite simple - you just don't pump it. But, as you can imagine, this is not a legitimate option for most developed areas. One key I think is to transition water use to significantly higher economic uses. This allows less water use to provide the current economic returns, which helps. But we have to realize we have an intertwined set of social, legal, economic and hydrologic systems at work here - like it or not. And it's just not easy to redically change all that to save water.

    Anyway, when you stumble across the answer, I know that you'll send it right along. Thanks for the vote of confidence and positive comment. WAB