Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Whole Aquifer Management - The Ogallala

Over the span of my 35 year career the issue of an aquifer-wide Ogallala management plan has come up three times.  The most serious effort was begun in 1995 under the wing of the Great Plains Foundation (GPF) which was formed in 1995 and whose first 5 years in existence was to be dedicated to water.  The director was Lori Triplett from Overland Park, KS and her vision was large, but clearly promoting the development of a multi-state, Master Management Plan for the Ogallala Aquifer.

The first meeting was a large affair held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on March 2 and 3, 1995.  Thirteen states were represented and just about everyone who was anyone (in the water world of the Ogallala) was there.  It's was the first time (and last time) I had seen most of the state engineers in one place discussing the Ogallala Aquifer.

After two days of fairly direct, moderated conversation, the decision was that there might be a role for a Master Plan, but it would be limited in scope to data and information sharing and research coordination.  There would be no groundwater management and/or regulatory elements even attempted.  And the decision was unanimous by the state representatives.     

I have been against an Ogallala Master Plan each time it's come up, for a number of reasons, a few of which remain:

1)  Each state has drastically different water laws;
2)  The extent and degree of the decline problems vary so widely;
3)  Groundwater movement is slow and more localized attention is required; and
4)  The impending increased Federal presence and role.

Oh, the GPF.  The Foundation went on to conduct four more annual symposia on the Ogallala as planned originally - 1996 at Colby Community College; 1997 at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln; 1998 at Texas Tech University and 1999 in Oklahoma City (hosted by Oklahoma State University).  I attended all the sessions and have copies of the proceedings if anyone is interested.  The Foundation still exists, but I have lost contact with it since their Ogallala groundwater series ended.  The management of the Ogallala Aquifer, whether by local GMD, the state, some cooperative super-entity or the federal government, will remain controversial I'm fairly certain.

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